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133302 




THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAG(% ; 
STUDIES IN LIBRARY SCIENCE* 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS 
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS 

THE BAKER & TAYLOR COMPANY 
NEW YORK 

THE CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS 

LONDON 

THE MARUZEN-KABUSHIKI-KAISHA 

TOKYO, OSAKA, KYOTO, FUKUOKA, SENDAI 

THE COMMERCIAL PRESS, LIMITED 
SHANGHAI 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK 
READABLE 

WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO ADULTS OF 
LIMITED READING ABILITY 

AN INITIAL STUDY 

BY 
WILLIAM S. GRAY, PH.D. 

The University of Chicago 
AND 

BERNICE E. LEARY, PH.D. 

St. Xavier College, Chicago 




THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS 
CHICAGO ILLINOIS 



COPYRIGHT 1935 BY THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. PUBLISHED MAY 1935 



COMPOSED AND PRINTED BV THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS 
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, U.S.A. 



PREFACE 

IN A society like our own some ability to read is attained by 
all but a small minority. This is the consequence of a long- 
established belief that literacy is essential to intelligent 
citizenry. Social enlightenment, personal advancement, enrich- 
ment of experience, wholesome enjoyment of leisure all are 
enhanced by the ability to read easily and understandingly 
whatever interprets and illuminates the phenomena of life. 

Unfortunately, however, a surprisingly large number of adults 
are not interested in reading or are unable to find in the con- 
tent of available material that which meets their particular in- 
terests. Furthermore, about 50 per cent of our population cannot 
read with ease and understanding much of the reading material 
now available for adults. In recognition of the growing need to 
serve more effectively this great mass of people, the American 
Library Association and the American Association for Adult 
Education have attacked the problem continuously since 1926 
through such agencies as the joint Committee on the Reading 
Interests and Habits of Adults and the Subcommittee on Read- 
able Books. The activities of the former have included a sum- 
mary of facts about adult reading, intensive studies of adult 
reading interests and preferences, and searching inquiry into 
the nature of adult reading materials, the results of which are 
reported in part in this volume. The activities of the subcom- 
mittee have been directed toward the preparation of lists of 
readable books for adults of limited education. Among the con- 
clusions reached by that committee is one of particular sig- 
nificance at this time, namely, that many good books fall short 
of being readable for the average reader in points that might 
have been met quite easily. If such conclusions are valid, the 
deficiency is doubtless due, in part at least, to lack of informa- 
tion among authors and publishers relative to the factors which 



vi PREFACE 

make a book readable for different kinds of readers. It seems 
apparent also that appropriate techniques are essential in de- 
termining the right book for the right reader. With these con- 
clusions and interpretations at hand, the study reported in this 
volume was undertaken. 

The purpose of the study is threefold: to make an initial 
survey of current opinion concerning what makes a book read- 
able for adults of limited reading ability; to study objectively a 
small but important area of readability commonly designated 
"ease" or "difficulty"; and to suggest possible applications of the 
findings to the work of librarians in selecting the right book for 
adult readers as well as to the task of writers and publishers in 
preparing readable materials for different reading groups. That 
we are keenly interested in the specific findings of this study and 
their practical application is to be expected. We are equally 
concerned, however, with the possibility of applying objective 
procedures to the study of the wide range of additional problems 
relating to readability. The present investigation has led to the 
conviction that such procedures are both possible and practica- 
ble, and what is even more important, probably, it has sug- 
gested numerous possibilities of continued productive research 
in this field. 

In order to achieve the most valuable results in the further 
study of readability, there is urgent need for active co-operation 
of all who are professionally interested in the problem. Special- 
ists in the field of adult education, librarians and readers' ad- 
visers, authors and publishers, together with investigators who 
have been studying special phases of readability, should share 
experiences and findings, pool judgments, and define a broad 
program of investigative activities which will attack systemati- 
cally and thoroughly the various problems involved and make 
practical application of the findings. Throughout the course of 
such investigations, those to whom detailed responsibilities are 
assigned should receive the constant counsel and guidance of 
an advisory committee representing all the interests involved. 
It is sincerely hoped that provision can be made in the near fu- 



PREFACE vii 

ture for such a co-ordinated and intensive study of the many 
problems of readability that await solution. 

Grateful acknowledgment is due to officers of the American 
Association of Adult Education and of the American Library 
Association for stimulating interest in this study; to the Carneg- 
ie Corporation of New York for funds with which the study 
was launched; to the Federal Emergency Relief Commission for 
the assignment of research workers to the project associated 
with the investigation; to the members of the Reading Habits 
Committee of the American Association of Adult Education 
and the American Library Association for their valuable help 
and guidance throughout the study; to administrators and 
teachers of adults and to parent-teacher organizations for sub- 
stantial co-operation in the testing program; to Edgar Dale and 
Ralph W. Tyler for invaluable technical assistance during the 
major part of the investigation; to Michael West for critical 
comments and stimulating suggestions; to Miss Frances Swine- 
ford for generous statistical assistance; and to Louis R. Wilson, 
Douglas Waples, Ralph W. Tyler, John Chancellor, Jennie M. 
Flexner, and Doris Hoit for reading portions or all of the manu- 
script and for constructive criticism. 

WILLIAM S. GRAY 
BERNICE E. LEARY 

April 15, 1935 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

LIST OF TABLES . xi 

LIST OF FIGURES xvii 

CHAPTER 

I. WHAT THE REPORT Is ABOUT i 

II. WHAT Is A READABLE BOOK? 21 

III. How WELL Do ADULTS READ? 57 

IV. WHAT ELEMENTS INFLUENCE THE DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READ- 
ING MATERIALS? 94 

V. How Do ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER WITH RESPECT TO 

ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY? 143 

VI. WHAT Is THE DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READING MATERIALS? . . 194 

VII. How TO SELECT READING MATERIALS FOR ADULTS .... 224 

VIII. How TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 261 

APPENDIX 

A. CHECK LIST OF POSSIBLE FACTORS OF READABILITY 293 

B. FACTORS OF CONTENT, STYLE, FORMAT, AND ORGANIZATION RANKED 

BY THREE GROUPS OF JUDGES 301 

C. TECHNIQUE FOLLOWED IN CONSTRUCTING ADULT READING TESTS 311 

D. AVERAGE READING SCORES ON ADULT READING TESTS .... 334 

E. INTERCORRELATION OF FORTY-FOUR ELEMENTS 337 

F. PREDICTED INDEXES OF DIFFICULTY OF THREE HUNDRED AND 
FIFTY BOOKS 339 

G. TEXTBOOKS USED IN INTERPRETING AREAS OF DIFFICULTY . . . 351 
INDEX 353 



LIST OF TABLES 

TABLE PAGE 

I. SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT CONCERNING THE RELATIVE IN- 
FLUENCE ON READABILITY or THE FOUR MAJOR CATE- 
GORIES 31 

II. FACTORS RELATED TO CONTENT RANKED OF GREATEST AND 
LEAST IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY EACH GROUP OF 
JUDGES 33 

III. SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT CONCERNING THE RELATIVE IN- 
FLUENCE ON READABILITY OF GENERAL ASPECTS OF CON- 
TENT 35 

IV. FACTORS RELATED TO STYLE OF EXPRESSION AND PRESEN- 
TATION RANKED OF GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO 
READABILITY BY EACH GROUP OF JUDGES 37 

V. SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT CONCERNING THE RELATIVE INFLU- 
ENCE ON READABILITY OF GENERAL ASPECTS OF STYLE OF 
EXPRESSION AND PRESENTATION 39 

VI. FACTORS RELATED TO FORMAT RANKED OF GREATEST AND 
LEAST IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY EACH GROUP OF 
JUDGES 40 

VII. SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT CONCERNING THE RELATIVE IN- 
FLUENCE ON READABILITY OF GENERAL ASPECTS OF FOR- 
MAT 42 

VIII. FACTORS RELATED TO GENERAL FEATURES OF ORGANIZA- 
TION RANKED OF GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO 
READABILITY BY EACH GROUP OF JUDGES . 44 

IX. SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT CONCERNING THE RELATIVE IN- 
FLUENCE ON READABILITY OF GENERAL ASPECTS OF OR- 
GANIZATION 45 

X. FACTORS MENTIONED WITH GREATEST FREQUENCY BY 
READERS AND READERS' ADVISERS IN COMMENTS REGARD- 
ING THE READABILITY OF THE SAME BOOKS .... 50 

XL NAME, GRADE-PLACEMENT, GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION*, AND 

SIZE OF GROUPS TESTED 63 

XII. NEAREST AGE IN YEARS OF 756 ADULT SUBJECTS ... 65 

XIII. LAST GRADE ATTENDED IN DAY SCHOOL, AS REPORTED BY 

756 ADULT SUBJECTS 66 

xi 



xii LIST OF TABLES 

TABLE PAGE 

XIV. OCCUPATIONS OF 756 ADULT SUBJECTS ...... 67 

XV. NUMBER AND PERCENTAGE OF 756 ADULTS MAKING VARI- 

OUS SCORES ON THE TESTS OF FICTION AND NON-FICTION . 68 

XVI. MEAN SCORES FOR EACH OF TWELVE GROUPS ON THE 

ADULT READING TESTS .......... 70 

XVII. COEFFICIENTS OF CORRELATION BETWEEN FORM i AND 

FORM 2 OF THE ADULT READING TEST ...... 73 

XVIII. ADDITIONAL GROUPS TESTED ON THE MONROE STANDARD- 

IZED SILENT READING TEST ......... 75 

XIX. NUMBER AND PERCENTAGE OF ADULTS IN SIXTEEN REPRE- 
SENTATIVE GROUPS MAKING VARIOUS GRADE SCORES ON 
THE MONROE STANDARDIZED SILENT READING TEST . . 77 

XX. READING ABILITY OF 756 ADULT SUBJECTS AS MEASURED BY 

THE MONROE STANDARDIZED SILENT READING TEST . . 79 

XXI. MEANS AND STANDARD DEVIATIONS OF THE SCORES OF 
TWELVE ADULT GROUPS ON THE MONROE STANDARDIZED 

SILENT READING TEST .......... 81 

i 

XXII. CORRELATIONS BETWEEN SCORES ON FORMS i AND 2 OF THE 
ADULT READING TEST AND THE MONROE STANDARDIZED 
SILENT READING TEST .......... 84 

XXIII. NUMBER AND PERCENTAGE OF 151 VILLAGE AND RURAL 
ADULTS MAKING VARIOUS GRADE SCORES ON THE MONROE 
STANDARDIZED SILENT READING TEST ...... 87 

XXIV. GRADE LAST ATTENDED AND GRADE SCORES IN ORAL READ- 
ING AND IN COMPREHENSION FOR 75 VILLAGE AND 76 RURAL 
ADULTS ............... 88 

XXV. NUMBER AND PERCENTAGE OF ADULTS IN EACH OF THREE 
NEGRO GROUPS MAKING VARIOUS SCORES ON THE MONROE 
STANDARDIZED SILENT READING TEST ...... 90 

XXVI. ELEMENTS OF EXPRESSION SUGGESTED AS POTENTIAL INDI- 

CATORS OF DIFFICULTY IN ADULT READING MATERIAL . 98 

XXVIL CORRELATIONS BETWEEN FORTY-FOUR POTENTIAL ELE- 
MENTS OF DIFFICULTY AND THE AVERAGE SCORE OF EACH 
TEST ITEM FOR THREE CLASSIFICATIONS OF ADULT SUB- 
JECTS ................ 115 

XXVIII. SIGNIFICANCE OF ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY FOR ALL READ- 

ERS ................ iai 



XXIX. SIGNIFICANCE OF ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY FOR " 

READERS .............. 122 



LIST OF TABLES xiii 

TABLE PAGE 

XXX. SIGNIFICANCE OF ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY FOR "POOREST" 

READERS 123 

XXXI. CORRELATIONS OF SIGNIFICANT ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY 

WITH AVERAGE READING SCORE AND WITH EACH OTHER . 128 

XXXII. INSTRUMENTS OF PREDICTION, COMBINING FOUR ELE- 
MENTS OF DIFFICULTY 139 

XXXIII. AVERAGE OCCURRENCE OF FIVE ELEMENTS IN Two SAM- 
PLINGS OF TWENTY PASSAGES EACH FROM ONE BOOK . . 141 

XXXIV. NAMES AND DATES OF ISSUE OF MAGAZINES USED IN THE 
ANALYSIS AND THE ANNUAL CIRCULATION OF EACH . . 145 

XXXV. NAMES OF FIFTEEN NEWSPAPERS SELECTED FOR ANALYSIS, 

WITH CLASSIFICATION AND DATE OF ISSUE OF EACH . . 148 

XXXVI. NAMES OF TWENTY-NINE BOOKS SELECTED FOR ANALYSIS, 

WITH CLASSIFICATION AND AUTHOR OF EACH .... 149 

XXXVII. SUMMARY OF DATA OBTAINED FROM AN ANALYSIS OF MONO- 
SYLLABLES IN THE READING MATERIAL OF MAGAZINES, 
NEWSPAPERS, AND BOOKS 152 

XXXVIII. SUMMARY OF DATA OBTAINED FROM AN ANALYSIS OF PER- 
CENTAGE OF DIFFERENT WORDS IN THE READING MATERIAL 
OF MAGAZINES, NEWSPAPERS, AND BOOKS 154 

XXXIX. SUMMARY OF DATA OBTAINED FROM AN ANALYSIS OF SYL- 
LABIC SENTENCE-LENGTH IN THE READING MATERIAL OF 
MAGAZINES, NEWSPAPERS, AND BOOKS 155 

XL. SUMMARY OF DATA OBTAINED FROM AN ANALYSIS OF SIMPLE 
SENTENCES IN THE READING MATERIAL OF MAGAZINES, 
NEWSPAPERS, AND BOOKS 157 

XLL PERCENTAGE OF MONOSYLLABLES IN THE READING MATE- 
RIAL OF SIXTY-EIGHT GENERAL MAGAZINES .... 159 

XLII. PERCENTAGE OF DIFFERENT WORDS IN SIXTY-EIGHT GEN- 
ERAL MAGAZINES 167 

XLIII. RANGE OF SYLLABIC SENTENCE-LENGTH AND MEDIAN SEN- 
TENCE-LENGTH IN SIXTY-EIGHT GENERAL MAGAZINES . 172 

XLIV. PERCENTAGE OF SIMPLE SENTENCES IN THE READING MA- 
TERIAL OF SIXTY-EIGHT GENERAL MAGAZINES .... 174 

XLV. RELATIVE DIFFICULTY OF GENERAL MAGAZINES BY COM- 
POSITE CLASSIFICATION ON THE BASIS OF FOUR ELEMENTS 
OF DIFFICULTY 176 

XLVI. PERCENTAGE OF MONOSYLLABLES IN THE READING MA- 
TERIAL OF FIFTEEN NEWSPAPERS 178 



xiv LIST OF TABLES 

TABLE PAGE 

XL VII. PERCENTAGE OF DIFFERENT WORDS IN FIFTEEN NEWS- 
PAPERS 179 

XL VIII. RANGE OF SYLLABIC SENTENCE-LENGTH AND MEDIAN SEN- 
TENCE-LENGTH IN FIFTEEN NEWSPAPERS 1 80 

XLIX. PERCENTAGE OF SIMPLE SENTENCES IN THE READING MA- 
TERIAL OF FIFTEEN NEWSPAPERS 181 

L, PERCENTAGE OF MONOSYLLABLES IN THE READING MA- 
TERIAL OF TWENTY-NINE BOOKS 184 

LL VOCABULARY DIVERSITY IN TWENTY-NINE BOOKS . . . 187 

LII. RANGE OF SYLLABIC SENTENCE-LENGTH AND MEDIAN SEN- 
TENCE-LENGTH IN TWENTY-NINE BOOKS 189 

LIIL PER CENT OF SIMPLE SENTENCES IN THE READING MATERI- 
AL OF TWENTY-NINE BOOKS 190 

LIV. BOOKS DEFINED AS RELATIVELY EASY, AVERAGE, OR DIF- 
FICULT BY THE OCCURRENCE OF EIGHT ELEMENTS OF DIF- 
FICULTY 192 

LV. FORM USED IN RECORDING THE OCCURRENCE OF ELEMENTS 
OF DIFFICULTY AND THE CALCULATION OF THE AVERAGE 
READING SCORE 198 

LVL DISTRIBUTION OF AVERAGE READING SCORES PREDICTED 

FOR THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY BOOKS 201 

LVIL DISTRIBUTION OF AVERAGE READING SCORES PREDICTED 

FOR EIGHTY-ONE TEXTBOOKS IN READING 216 

LVIII. AVERAGE GRADE ACHIEVEMENT IN READING BY GROUPS 
CLASSIFIED ACCORDING TO THE GRADE REACHED IN PUBLIC 
SCHOOL 241 

LIX. AVERAGE OCCURRENCE OF FIVE ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY 

IN HUNDRED-WORD SAMPLINGS OF TWO VERSIONS OF 

Treasure Island 266 

LX. AVERAGE OCCURRENCE OF SEVEN ELEMENTS OF DIFFI- 
CULTY IN HUNDRED-WORD SAMPLINGS OF TWO VERSIONS OF 

Moby Dick 267 

LXL AVERAGE OCCURRENCE OF SEVEN ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY 

IN HUNDRED-WORD SAMPLINGS OFTwO VERSIONS OF Rotin- 

son Crusoe 268 

LXIL AVERAGE OCCURRENCE OF SEVEN ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY 

IN HUNDRED-WORD SAMPLINGS OF TWO VERSIONS OF SilaS 

Marner 268 



LIST OF TABLES xv 

TABLE PAGE 

LXIII. AVERAGE OCCURRENCE OF FIVE ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY 

IN HUNDRED-WORD SAMPLINGS OF TWO VERSIONS OF LeS 

Miserable* 269 

LXIV, AVERAGE OCCURRENCE OF FIVE ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY 

IN HUNDRED-WORD SAMPLINGS OF TWO VERSIONS OF The 

Vicar of Wakefield 269 

LXV. TENTATIVE STANDARDS FOR USE IN WRITING FOR ADULTS 

OF LIMITED READING ABILITY 288 

LXVI. FACTORS RELATED TO CONTENT RANKED OF GREATEST AND 

LEAST IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY LIBRARIANS . . 301 

LXVII. FACTORS RELATED TO CONTENT RANKED OF GREATEST AND 

LEAST IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY PUBLISHERS . . 302 

LXVIII. FACTORS RELATED TO CONTENT RANKED OF GREATEST AND 
LEAST IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY OTHERS INTEREST- 
ED IN ADULT EDUCATION 302 

LXIX. FACTORS RELATED TO STYLE OF EXPRESSION AND PRESEN- 
TATION RANKED OF GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO 
READABILITY BY LIBRARIANS 303 

LXX. FACTORS RELATED TO STYLE OF EXPRESSION AND PRESEN- 
TATION RANKED OF GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO 
READABILITY BY PUBLISHERS 304 

LXXI. FACTORS RELATED TO STYLE OF EXPRESSION AND PRESEN- 
TATION RANKED OF GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO 
READABILITY BY OTHERS INTERESTED IN ADULT EDUCA- 
TION 305 

LXXII. FACTORS RELATED TO FORMAT RANKED OF GREATEST AND 

LEAST IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY LIBRARIANS . . 306 

LXXIII. FACTORS RELATED TO FORMAT RANKED OF GREATEST AND 

LEAST IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY PUBLISHERS . . 307 

LXXIV. FACTORS RELATED TO FORMAT RANKED OF GREATEST AND 
LEAST IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY OTHERS INTER- 
ESTED IN ADULT EDUCATION 308 

LXXV. FACTORS RELATED TO GENERAL FEATURES OF ORGANIZA- 
TION RANKED OF GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO 
READABILITY BY LIBRARIANS 309 

LXXVI. FACTORS RELATED TO GENERAL FEATURES OF ORGANIZA- 
TION RANKED OF GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO 
READABILITY BY PUBLISHERS 309 



xvi LIST OF TABLES 

TABLE PAGE 

LXXVII. FACTORS RELATED TO GENERAL FEATURES OF ORGANIZA- 
TION RANKED OF GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO 
READABILITY BY OTHERS INTERESTED IN ADULT EDUCA- 
TION 310 

LXXVIII. RELIABILITY OF COMPOSITE JUDGMENT FOR ITEMS REPRE- 
SENTING THE RANGE OF VARIABILITY IN FORM i AND 
FORM 2 322 

LXXIX. CORRELATIONS BETWEEN SCORES ON FORMS i AND 2 OF THE 
ADULT READING TEST AND THE MONROE STANDARDIZED 
SILENT READING TEST 328 

LXXX. VALIDITY OF THE ITEMS IN FORMS i AND 2 OF THE ADULT 

READING TEST 330 

LXXXI. RELIABILITY COEFFICIENTS, STANDARD DEVIATIONS, PROB- 
ABLE ERRORS OF SCORES, AND RATIOS BETWEEN THE PROB- 
ABLE ERRORS AND STANDARD DEVIATIONS OF SCORES ON 
ADULT READING TESTS 332 

LXXXII. CRITERIA OF DIFFICULTY FOR ITEMS ON FORM i, REPRE- 
SENTED BY THE AVERAGE SCORE OF ALL READERS, "BEST" 
READERS, AND "POOREST" READERS 335 

LXXXIII. CRITERIA OF DIFFICULTY FOR ITEMS ON FORM 2, REPRE- 
SENTED BY THE AVERAGE SCORE OF ALL READERS, "BEST" 
READERS, AND "POOREST" READERS 336 

LXXXIV. CORRELATIONS OF ELEMENTS OF EXPRESSION WITH AVER- 
AGE READING SCORES AND WITH EACH OTHER . . facing 338 

LXXXV. PREDICTED DIFFICULTY OF THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY 

BOOKS 339 

LXXXVI. TEXTBOOKS IN READING USED IN THE INTERPRETATION OF 
AREAS OF DIFFICULTY REPRESENTED BY THREE HUNDRED 
AND FIFTY ADULT BOOKS 351 



LIST OF FIGURES 

FIGURE PAGE 

1. OPINION CONCERNING THE INFLUENCE OF CLASSIFIED FACTORS ON 
READABILITY 31 

2. AN EVALUATION OF THE GENERAL ASPECTS OF CONTENT ... 36 

3. AN EVALUATION OF GENERAL ASPECTS OF STYLE 39 

4. AN EVALUATION OF GENERAL ASPECTS OF FORMAT 43 

5. AN EVALUATION OF GENERAL ASPECTS OF ORGANIZATION ... 46 

6. MEDIAN AND FIRST AND THIRD QUARTILES ON FORMS i AND 2 OF 
THE ADULT READING TEST FOR TWELVE GROUPS OF ADULTS . . 71 

7. SCORES OF 756 ADULTS ON THE MONROE STANDARDIZED SILENT 
READING TEST 80 

8. PERCENTAGE OF ADULTS BELOW SEVENTH-GRADE LEVEL OF READ- 
ING ACHIEVEMENT AS DETERMINED BY THE MONROE TEST ... 82 

9. SCHOOL GRADE AND READING GRADE ACHIEVEMENT .... 85 

10. DISTRIBUTION OF "B" SCORES OF 75 VILLAGE AND 76 RURAL ADULTS 
ON THE STANDARDIZED ORAL READING PARAGRAPHS AND THE MON- 
ROE STANDARDIZED SILENT READING TEST 89 

n. PERCENTAGE OF MONOSYLLABLES IN 1,000 WORDS IN THE READING 

MATERIAL OF FIVE SELECTED MAGAZINES 161 

12. PROPORTIONATE OCCURRENCE OF MONOSYLLABLES AND POLYSYL- 
LABLES IN MAGAZINES OF GENERAL FICTION 163 

13. PROPORTIONATE OCCURRENCE OF MONOSYLLABLES AND POLYSYL- 
LABLES IN MAGAZINES OF GENERAL INFORMATION 164 

14. PROPORTIONATE OCCURRENCE OF MONOSYLLABLES AND POLYSYL- 
LABLES IN MAGAZINES OF WOMAN'S INTERESTS 165 

15. ANALYSIS OF THE FIRST 175 SENTENCES IN THE SCO-SENTENCE 
UNIT SELECTED FROM THE READING MATERIAL ov Aces . . . 169 

16. ANALYSIS OF THE FIRST 175 SENTENCES IN THE SCO-SENTENCE UNIT 
SELECTED FROM THE READING MATERIAL OF Review of Reviews . . 170 

17. SYLLABIC LENGTH OF SENTENCES IN MAGAZINES OF GENERAL FIC- 
TION 173 

1 8. SYLLABIC LENGTH OF SENTENCES IN MAGAZINES OF GENERAL IN- 
FORMATION 173 



xviii LIST OF FIGURES 

FIGURE PAGE 

19. PROPORTIONATE OCCURRENCE OF MONOSYLLABLES AND POLYSYL- 
LABLES IN DAILY NEWSPAPERS 182 

20. SYLLABIC LENGTH or SENTENCES IN DAILY NEWSPAPERS . . . 182 

21. PROPORTIONATE OCCURRENCE or MONOSYLLABLES AND POLYSYL- 
LABLES IN POPULAR NOVELS 185 

22. PROPORTIONATE OCCURRENCE OF MONOSYLLABLES AND POLYSYL- 
LABLES IN POPULAR GENERAL BOOKS 186 

23. AVERAGE READING SCORES OR INDEXES OF DIFFICULTY PREDICTED 

FOR 350 GENERAL ADULT BOOKS 203 

24. DEFINITION OF FIVE AREAS OF DIFFICULTY REPRESENTED BY THE 
ADULT BOOKS STUDIED 207 

25. PREDICTED DIFFICULTY OF READING TEXTS FOR ELEMENTARY AND 
JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOLS IN TERMS OF RANGE, MEAN, AND STAND- 
ARD DEVIATION 217 

26. INTERPRETATION OF AREAS OF DIFFICULTY IN TERMS OF DIFFICUL- 
TY REPRESENTED BY TEXTBOOKS FOR GRADES II TO IX . . . 218 

27. OCCURRENCE OF DIFFERENT HARD WORDS IN READING MATERIALS 

AT SUCCESSIVE AREAS OF DIFFICULTY 289 

28. OCCURRENCE OF PERSONAL PRONOUNS IN READING MATERIALS AT 
SUCCESSIVE AREAS OF DIFFICULTY ; 289 

29. AVERAGE SENTENCE-LENGTH IN READING MATERIALS AT SUCCES- 
SIVE AREAS OF DIFFICULTY 290 

30. OCCURRENCE OF DIFFERENT WORDS IN READING MATERIALS AT 
SUCCESSIVE AREAS OF DIFFICULTY 290 

31. OCCURRENCE OF PREPOSITIONAL PHRASES IN READING MATERIALS 

AT SUCCESSIVE AREAS OF DIFFICULTY 291 

32. TABULATING CARD FOR RECORDING INDIVIDUAL TEST SCORES . 334 



CHAPTER I 
WHAT THE REPORT IS ABOUT 

HOW much a person reads and what he reads undoubted- 
ly are determined by many factors. Some pertain to 
the reader to his proficiency in reading, to his mo- 
tives for reading^ and to his reading interests and tastes. Others 
relate to the reading materials to their accessibility and to 
their readability. The co-ordination of these two sets of factors 
for the purpose of getting the right book into the hands of the 
right reader should go far toward extending and improving read- 
ing habits. 

But what is the right book? In other words, what makes a 
book readable for a particular reader? This is the general ques- 
tion with which we are concerned. Yet in this report we have 
not answered the question completely. Nor have we attempted 
to do so. What we have done is, first, to discover the trend of 
opinion among librarians, publishers, and teachers and direc- 
tors of adult education concerning the factors which they be- 
lieve make a book readable. We have used the findings of this 
preliminary inquiry to point the way to the major part of the 
investigation, which is concerned with two problems. One is to 
ascertain what elements in reading material make it easy or 
difficult for adults, when the purpose of reading is defined some- 
what narrowly; and the other, to discover how these elements 
may be used in a more accurate estimate of the difficulty of 
reading material of a similar sort. Throughout the report we 
have attempted to indicate the types of subsequent research 
needed to determine what is a readable book, and, therefore, 
what is the right book for a particular reader. 

THE PROBLEM IS A TIMELY ONE 

There is a conspicuous interest at present in defining, pre- 
paring, and selecting readable materials. This may be explained 



2 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

in part by the fact that never before have readable books had 
such a wide potential audience. Many forces are at work to in- 
crease this audience. Shortening of the working day and the 
working week, technological unemployment, and a prolonged 
economic crisis have combined to create an increasing leisure 
which may be considered potential reading time. Adult educa- 
tion as an organized movement is giving a new sense of direc- 
tion to the intellectual life of adults. Clubs, forums, councils, 
and discussion groups are increasing rapidly. Five times as 
many organized adult groups exist now as in 1929. Social and 
recreational programs are being supplemented by discussions on 
controversial issues of social, economic, and political import. 
Frequently these programs go no farther than the presentation 
and discussion of a timely topic. Hence they may fail to lead 
the group to the larger understandings and deeper apprecia- 
tions to be gained through the educational experience of sys- 
tematic reading and study. Other programs aim to bring about 
a more intelligent grappling with vital problems through an un- 
derstanding of the conditions and forces creating them. To this 
end related reading courses are outlined to fit the needs and in- 
terests of the group. Co-operation is secured from librarians in 
giving publicity to books bearing on the problem discussed at 
group meetings. Reading for understanding steadily receives 
definite encouragement and systematic guidance. 

With the New Deal committed to the policy of using its 
powers to alleviate economic distress, adult education is being 
utilized as an important step toward recovery. Emergency pro- 
grams are springing up on every hand. The unemployed are 
being drawn into the classroom in the role of teacher or student. 
A variety of educational activities are being rapidly initiated. 
These include teaching native- and foreign-born adult illiterates 
to read and write English; training persons who are physically 
handicapped to do some remunerative work; giving vocational 
training of a new type to adults whose specialized trade is no 
longer in demand; and extending the general education of per- 
sons who are dissatisfied with their past attainments. In the 



WHAT THE REPORT IS ABOUT 3 

majority of cases adult students are being guided to find a way 
out of an economic situation they but partially understand. In- 
asmuch as the "way out" may lie in the command and interpre- 
tation of facts which explain progressive changes and evolving 
social life in a dynamic world, the place and purpose of read- 
ing cannot be disregarded. 

But more important than the increase in the number of po- 
tential readers is the evidence that a new vigor is actually being 
developed in systematic reading. This is inspired by a desire 
for economic security, cultural advancement, or social adjust- 
ment. Current demands for reading are singularly common. 
Readers at all levels of learning are asking for more information 
about their own vocations and professions information that 
will add to their efficiency and tend to create in them a feeling 
of security. 

Few of us can now be content to be specialists in a single 
field. Our complacency has met uncomfortable jolts as rapid 
changes in industrial processes and precipitous shifts in social 
aims and outlooks have outdistanced our understanding or ap- 
preciation. As a consequence, we are asking for bodies of infor- 
mation bearing on unfamiliar fields general information that 
will give a comprehensive survey of a subject or a penetrating 
insight into some of its aspects without a bewilderment of tech- 
nical detail. Escape from reality or interpretation of reality in 
a good book of fiction, travel, biography, or history is a part of 
the pleasure every reader hopes to find in reading. Hence, books 
for this purpose are also a part of the common demand. Ma- 
terials presenting reliable information on current economic, so- 
cial, and civic problems are being sought not only by the econo- 
mist and sociologist but by the ordinarily indifferent layman 
who has come to want something more than passing propa- 
ganda on which to base his hopes and his decisions. 

Evidence for this new vigor in reading lies in recent reports 
from public libraries to the effect that library patronage is in- 
creasing rapidly in quantity and quality. In quantity, because 
enforced leisure, prolonged idleness, and participation in edu- 



4 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

cational activities all serve as an impetus for immediate reading 
and study; in quality, because the lifetime reader, who has 
already acquired the habit of reading for information or for 
pleasure, is now forced by economic circumstances not only to 
read more but to borrow rather than to buy the books he reads. 

Writers and publishers are making vigorous effort to meet 
increasing reading demands by preparing readable materials 
adapted to the varied needs and interests of the general reader. 
Probably this effort is more consciously directed toward books 
of general information than toward fiction. This may be ex- 
plained -in part by the interrelation of two circumstances. One 
is the growing interest manifested by adults in non-fiction, es- 
pecially non-fiction that carries a flavor of fiction or promises 
some help in solving a personal problem. Lists of best-sellers 
tend increasingly to include these types of non-fiction as well as 
the more serious type of fiction. The second circumstance is the 
patent need for more informational, non-technical material 
within the understanding of the reader. 

Convincing examples of publishers' efforts to meet new needs 
and interests are to be found in semi-narrations of history, 
geography, and other of the sciences, and in brochures of basic 
information pertaining to social, economic, and political prob- 
lems. For whom are these materials readable? Their popularity 
is evidence that among certain classes of readers they are satis- 
fying a need for non-technical information about technical 
themes. It seems reasonable to assume that they may be read- 
able for the person of average or more than average reading ex- 
perience and yet be altogether unreadable for the adult who has 
read few, if any, books, and who has acquired only a fair ability 
to read. For there is no denying the fact that the reading public 
is conspicuously stratified when its members are classified with 
respect to how well they read. What materials are of appropri- 
ate difficulty for readers at each level is one of the things this 
report aims to show. 

The evidence to be presented later supports the testimony of 
librarians and teachers of adult classes that much reading ma- 



WHAT THE REPORT IS ABOUT 5 

terial of general adult interest is suitable only for readers at the 
top stratum. For readers at considerably lower strata of read- 
ing experience such material is difficult and abstruse. If, there- 
fore, these persons do a meager amount of reading of informa- 
tional non-fiction, one explanation may lie in a lack of mate- 
rial adapted to their needs. If they turn to Dream World or 
Ranch Romances for their fiction, it may be because relatively 
little else of equal simplicity is available. For the near-illiterate 
of still lesser reading ability, reading matter is even more limit- 
ed. The seriousness of this condition has been emphasized by 
objective evidence showing that the chief handicap to increasing 
the reading efficiency of new literates lies more often in a lack 
of readable materials than in serious disability of the learners. 

But how can we know whether a book is readable for a par- 
ticular reader? When we have the answer to this question we 
shall have the secret of meeting current reading demands, of 
getting the right book into the hands of the right reader,, and 
ultimately of extending and improving reading habits. 

THE PRESENT APPROACH 

As stated at the outset, the present investigation is but an 
initial approach to the definition of a readable book. Therefore, 
as we outline briefly what this report contains, we shall indi- 
cate also what it does not contain. 

When we ask whether or not a book is readable, we meet a 
counter question, Readable for whom ? From these two emerge 
most, if not all, of the issues which at the present time seem to 
be involved in the total problem of readability. The first directs 
our attention toward the reading material and the qualities 
which presumably affect its readability. It is with this question 
that the present report is primarily concerned. With the second, 
we face about and look at the reader for whom a book must be 
satisfying if it is readable. In this case, we have in mind a par- 
ticular class of reader one of limited reading ability. 

Who is a reader of limited ability? He cannot be identified in 
terms of years, for his age may range anywhere from sixteen to 



6 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

ninety, probably. Neither can he be recognized by his occupa- 
tional interests, for, unfortunately, the limited reader is repre- 
sented in practically every type of occupation. His educational 
experience, too, covers a wide range, from little or none to a 
considerable amount. At least one feature probably character- 
izes a limited reader. This is his inability to read with pleasure 
and understanding any but the simplest adult materials, usually 
cheap fiction or graphically presented news of the day. But how 
are we to know that the reader of such materials is able to read 
no better or that the person who reads not at all is unable to 
read? These are important questions for which we need answers 
if we hope to improve reading habits. 

In this report we have considered the reader primarily from 
the point of view of his ability to read certain kinds of materials 
for certain specified purposes. In studying how well he reads, 
in preference to what he wants to read or what he does read or 
how much he reads, we do not mean to imply that ability is 
more important than taste or interest or any other quality in 
determining whether a particular reader will find a particular 
book readable. We do maintain, however, that a reader's ability 
is of great importance in determining how much difficulty he 
will meet in reading materials prepared for him. And diffi- 
culty is the aspect of readability we are studying in greatest 
detail. 

Yet even our study of reading ability is not complete. It is 
commonly conceded that there is no such quality as general 
reading ability. There is, rather, a series of specific abilities 
which a person manifests in reading different kinds of materials 
for different purposes. Presumably the ability in each case is 
influenced by the degree of interest he has in the content, by the 
nature of the outcome desired, as well as by a variety of other 
factors. A true measure of reading ability, therefore, should be 
considerably more comprehensive than the measure we have 
obtained through the use of materials of our own selection, read 
for the purposes which we have chosen to define. Additional 
study should be made to discover the degree of relationship be- 



WHAT THE REPORT IS ABOUT 7 

tween specific reading abilities of persons whose general ability, 
if such there is, appears limited. 

In investigating the qualities of a book which make it read- 
able for adults of limited ability, we have been forced within the 
restrictions of a single report to exclude many that are un- 
doubtedly quite as important as the one we have studied 
difficulty. To identify some of the other qualities, to classify 
them into related categories for the purpose of viewing them 
analytically and synthetically, and to attempt to indicate the 
type of investigations needed to show their relative contribu- 
tion to readability are as much as we have been able to do* 
This we have attempted to do in chapter iii. 

Furthermore, we have studied difficulty of reading material 
only as it is related to structural elements used in the expression 
of the content; that is, to length and structure of words and 
sentences, to number and hardness of different words, and so on. 
Emphasis on these elements is not intended to give them a rank 
of first importance in determining difficulty. On the contrary, 
it seems altogether probable that whether an idea is abstract or 
concrete, whether it is familiar or unfamiliar, are more impor- 
tant issues in determining difficulty than whether that idea is 
expressed in words of one or several syllables. 

Why, then, have structural elements been given precedence 
in this investigation? The answer lies frankly in the fact that 
they lend themselves most readily to quantitative enumeration 
and statistical treatment. Within certain admitted limitations, 
subjective opinion cannot gainsay the evidence they present. 
If, therefore, we can show that structural elements bear signifi- 
cant relationship to difficulty, we not only shall have proof that 
reading materials can be made more readable by attention to 
form of expression, but we shall have reason to isolate other less 
tangible elements and attempt to resolve them into objective 
terms for further investigation. 

In the hope that the results of the study may be useful in pre- 
paring and selecting readable books for the largest possible 
audience, we have devoted our attention to the difficulty of 



8 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

what is termed general reading materials. They are prepared for 
no specialized group. They aim to present no narrow interests. 
They are designed for the general reader whose reading is carried 
on without regard for vocational or professional interests. Such 
reading matter characterizes newspapers, general magazines, 
and general books of fiction and non-fiction. So varied is the 
content of this type of material, however, that one is forced to 
question whether it can truly be termed general reading or 
whether there actually is any general reader. It may be argued 
that this material, despite the fact that it is non-technical, rep- 
resents fairly specific interests of several kinds of readers. Simi- 
larly, persons co-operating in the study were of many different 
sorts, racially and socially. It is impossible to say without fur- 
ther investigation how much these limitations affect our identi- 
fication of elements of difficulty. Perhaps structural elements 
are not generally related to difficulty. It may be that their rela- 
tionship to difficulty is indeed highly particularized, varying 
with the reader and with the nature of the content read. Far 
more extended study is needed before this issue can be settled. 

Then, again, the elements of difficulty which we have identi- 
fied in this study operate only when reading is done for the 
single purpose here defined to obtain a general impression of 
what is read in the form of a summary statement. But there are 
other purposes in reading: to follow the plot of a story, to gather 
specific details, to evaluate the worth of an expressed opinion, 
to secure emotional enjoyment, to determine the motive of an 
author, to support an argument, and to obtain a large number 
of other outcomes. All of these are adult purposes for reading, 
the relative importance of which has not been discovered* In 
the present study we have assumed that adults read most often 
to get "the gist" of the content, a general notion of what is 
read. It is to this kind of understanding that the structural 
elements reported here are related, and it is with respect to this 
kind of understanding that they are termed elements of diffi- 
culty. According to our findings, the number of different words 
in a selection, the number of prepositional phrases contained in 



WHAT THE REPORT IS ABOUT 9 

the selection, and the proportionate occurrence of polysyllables 
bear a significant relationship to the difficulty a reader experi- 
ences in reading to obtain a general impression of the content. 
The question may well be raised as to whether they would bear 
the same relationship to difficulty were the reading done for any 
other purpose. 

If elements of difficulty as we have defined them should be 
found by extended investigation to bear a similar relationship 
to difficulty, regardless of the purpose for which one reads, then 
to that extent they might be termed "general" elements of diffi- 
culty. If, on the other hand, they should be found to vary in 
their relationship to the desired outcome, then the definition of 
elements of difficulty would of necessity be as particularized as 
the outcomes themselves. 

Finally, the use of identified elements in predicting the diffi- 
culty of specific reading materials for limited readers is also 
restricted. For example, in estimating the difficulty of Roose- 
velt's Looking Forward, we have done no more than predict the 
difficulty it possesses structurally for readers of limited ability 
who read it to obtain a general impression of the content. 

What we have attempted to show thus far is that the findings 
of this report are not applicable beyond the realm from which 
they have been derived. The findings with respect to readability 
pertain to but one aspect, difficulty. This aspect is further re- 
stricted to a study of structural elements in reading material re- 
lated to difficulty when reading is done for the purpose of ob- 
taining a general impression of what is read. The materials 
studied represent a variety of subjects and presumably a va- 
riety of reading interests. The individuals used in the investiga- 
tion are homogeneous only with respect to reading ability, which 
is generally limited. The classification of materials as "easy" or 
"difficult" for readers of limited ability is based solely on struc- 
tural elements without regard for such qualifying factors as in- 
terestingness, familiarity of content, or purpose of reading. It is 
with all of these qualifications in mind that we present this ini- 
tial approach to the problem of "What Makes a Book Read- 



io WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

able." Whatever interpretations are made of the findings pre- 
sented throughout the report must be in keeping with the quali- 
fications already stated. Interpretations beyond these limita- 
tions are wholly unjustified. 

In order to give a brief picture of the study as reported in this 
volume, the remainder of the chapter is devoted, first, to a sum- 
mary of the steps of procedure followed and the findings ob- 
tained in that part of the investigation which is presented in 
the first six chapters; second, to a survey of the practical appli- 
cations of the findings suggested in chapters vii and viii; and, 
finally, to a forward look at the nature of future investigations 
toward which this report aims to point the way. 

STEPS OF PROCEDURE 

i. The first step in the study was to secure a list of qualities 
of a book which may contribute to its readability for adults of 
limited education. In this connection we made a survey of cur- 
rent literature for the purpose of discovering what is being writ- 
ten about readability and what meaning is being attached to 
the term. It was soon apparent that whereas writers and in- 
vestigators occasionally mention readable books, they rarely 
indicate clearly what is implied by the word readable. 

Because librarians, publishers, and teachers and directors of 
adult classes manifest growing interest in the question of what 
makes a book readable for a particular reader, we sent letters 
of inquiry to a large number relative to the factors which they 
believe influence readability. A detailed account of the pro- 
cedure followed is presented in chapter ii. A total of 288 sug- 
gested factors was compiled from approximately 100 responses 
to the inquiry. They were classified into twenty-four general 
aspects under four major categories: format \ general features of 
organization, style of expression and presentation, and content. 
The classified list appears in Appendix A. To supplement this 
list, reactions were also secured from 170 library patrons who 
came to readers' advisers for guidance. These reactions were 
stated in terms of factors which they believed made a book read- 
able or non-readable. 



WHAT THE REPORT IS ABOUT 11 

The findings thus obtained were not intended to solve the 
problem of what makes a book readable. Their use was confined 
to a preliminary definition of a series of problems about which 
facts are needed before a book can be labeled "readable" or 
"unreadable" for a particular reader. One aspect of readability 
proposed by the findings of this survey was isolated for inten- 
sive study. This relates to ease or difficulty of reading material, 
as determined by the presence of certain structural elements of 
written expression that are related to difficulty. 

2. Before determining these elements in general reading ma- 
terials, it was necessary to discover how well adults read such 
materials. Two series of tests were devised from books, maga- 
zines, and newspapers. One contained passages of fiction; the 
other, non-fiction of a general informational sort. 

In giving the tests, an attempt was made to include as many 
levels of reading ability as possible. Use was accordingly made 
not only of adults who were attending school and were classified 
at different educational levels but also of relatively heterogene- 
ous non-school groups. It was hoped that the groups would be 
sufficiently diversified with respect to abilities, interests, and 
educational background to give a fair representation of the gen- 
eral reading public and at the same time an adequate sampling 
of readers of limited ability. A description of the groups tested 
is given in chapter iii. 

The average reading score made on each item by all adults 
tested was interpreted as the criterion of difficulty for that item. 
For example, if the average score on one item was higher than 
the average score on another, the first was assumed to be easier 
than the second. On the other hand, if the score on the first was 
lower than the score on the second, a contrary assumption was 
made. Further information concerning how well adults read was 
obtained through the use of standardized oral and silent read- 
ing tests which interpret reading achievement in terms of grade 
norms. 

3. Ample evidence was found in the average reading scores of 
persons tested on the passages from books, magazines, and 
newspapers to indicate that reading materials represent varying 



i a WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

degrees of difficulty. Our next step, therefore, was to discover 
what elements in those materials influence difficulty. We ac- 
cordingly analyzed each item for variants in expression which 
might be related to ease or difficulty. Some variants pertained 
to vocabulary to its range, frequency of usage, and familiarity. 
Others related to the sentence to its length, structure, and use. 
A number of others concerned paragraph development and or- 
ganization. In all, more than eighty variants of expression were 
discovered in the items. Of these, sixty-four were found open to 
quantitative enumeration and were therefore retained for study. 
They are described in chapter iv. 

With this information, it was possible to compare by the meth- 
od of correlation the difficulty of the test items with each of sev- 
eral elements characterizing their content. This method iden- 
tifies elements of difficulty in terms of the relationship existing 
between the occurrence of the expressional variants in the items 
and the criterion of difficulty, that is, the average reading score 
made on the items by persons taking the tests. 

In a similar way, elements of difficulty were identified for par- 
ticular groups of readers best readers and poorest readers whose 
classification as such was determined by their reactions to the 
test, after the manner described in chapter iv. The average 
reading scores of these groups were taken as criteria of the diffi- 
culty which they encountered in reading the test items and were 
correlated with the occurrence of expressional variants in the 
items as before. The size of the coefficient of correlation thus 
obtained indicates the degree of relationship which a particular 
variant in expression bears to difficulty. For example, a coeffi- 
cient of .520 for percentage of easy words shows that this ele- 
ment has a closer relationship to difficulty than does percent- 
age of simple sentences with a coefficient of .180. 

The direction of the association between any particular ele- 
ment and difficulty is designated by the sign of the coefficient. 
The elements just cited correlate positively with ease. In other 
words, a high percentage of easy words and of simple sentences 
may be taken as an index of easy reading material. A low per- 



WHAT THE REPORT IS ABOUT 13 

centage of the same elements indicates difficult material. A co- 
efficient of .380 for percentage of polysyllables, on the other 
hand, indicates a relationship negative for ease and positive for 
difficulty. Hence, the greater the number of polysyllables in a 
selection, the greater the degree of difficulty inherent in it. 

4. The identification of elements of difficulty in general read- 
ing material gave rise to the question of how to use these ele- 
ments in a more reliable estimate of the difficulty of similar ma- 
terials. It was believed that the answer would furnish librarians 
and readers' advisers with a scientific technique for determining 
what materials are of appropriate structural difficulty for read- 
ers of known ability. Furthermore, it would suggest an objec- 
tive means whereby writers and publishers can determine 
whether a particular mode of expression will offer a serious ob- 
stacle to adults of limited reading ability. 

Two techniques were devised for estimating the difficulty of 
general reading material by the use of the significant elements. 
These techniques are presented in chapter iv. Their application 
to specific books, magazines, and newspapers is illustrated in 
chapters v and vi. 

THE MAJOR FINDINGS 

The most important findings revealed by this study may be 
summarized as follows: 

i. Measurement of the reading ability of 1,690 adults showed 
a wide variation in achievement, ranging from a grade equiva- 
lent below 2.95 to one above 16.95. About one-sixth of the 
adults tested were found to read with a proficiency normally at- 
tained by high-school graduates. Approximately the same num- 
ber had attained a reading proficiency commonly associated 
with the lower elementary grades. Between these two extremes 
range the majority of adults tested. 

In all probability, explanation for the low reading achieve- 
ment reported here lies partly in the selection of cases to which 
reference has been made on page n. We were interested not 
only in discovering how well adults read in general, but in de- 



i 4 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

termining how many persons in adult classes, in organized adult 
groups, and in representative communities have attained some 
degree of reading facility, and yet are unable to engaged in ma- 
ture reading activities. The fact that many adults cannot read 
understandingly a large proportion of available materials justi- 
fies a concentration of effort on the problem of ascertaining 
what makes a book readable for them. 

i. Librarians, publishers, and others interested in adult edu- 
cation are in notable agreement with respect to the factors 
which in their opinion influence the readability of a book for 
readers of limited ability. All three groups believe that factors 
of content are of greatest importance. They rate factors of style 
of second importance; factors of format, third; and general 
features of organization of least importance. In other words, 
they believe that a readable book, first of all, must contain con- 
tent relating to the reader's interest. For example, Fleming's 
Brazilian Adventure may be very readable for one person be- 
cause he is interested in travel or because he is drawn as by 
magic to thrill-packed adventures in the jungle. Another may 
find the same book quite unreadable. He, too, wants a travel 
story, but of another sort. He prefers to journey happily and 
informally over well-marked highways, as in Winn's The Mac- 
adam Trail; Ten Thousand Miles by Motor Coach. 

In the second place, according to a majority of the judges, 
the readable book has a pleasing style. It tells the reader "what 
he wants to read about" in a manner that makes him look ahead 
to what is yet to come with anticipation and look back over 
what has gone before with satisfaction. It neither vexes him 
with overcomplexity nor with oversimplicity. He can react nat- 
urally and favorably to the material because its style of presen- 
tation fits his needs and tastes. 

The judges are fairly well agreed, also, that an attractive 
format is of some importance to readability. They believe that 
the most ambitious reader may be daunted by a 6oo-page book, 
even though the content is what he wants to read about and 
the style agreeable to him. The fact is, he is not that much in- 



WHAT THE REPORT IS ABOUT 15 

terested, when all he truly wants to know could be told in a book 
one-fourth as long. On the other hand, a book may be too con- 
densed and too brief to be readable. Or, again, the illustrations 
may be too few or too many, too detailed or not detailed enough, 
too garish or too dull, to satisfy the reader. 

Finally, according to the judges, how a book is organized has 
some bearing on its readability. The organization must make 
it possible for the reader to get what he wants as easily and 
quickly as circumstances allow. If it does not, then the book 
falls just short of being readable. 

Although considerable agreement was found among the 
judges concerning what general qualities make a book readable 
for readers of limited ability, there was marked diversity of 
opinion with respect to the individual factors that promote in- 
teresting content, pleasing style, attractive format, and appro- 
priate organization. It is this diversity of opinion, shown in 
later sections of this report, that points to the need of more ob- 
jective and reliable evidence concerning the qualities of reada- 
bility. 

3. That ease or difficulty of a book is a potent factor in effect- 
ing readability for persons of limited education is generally con- 
ceded by the readers themselves. They report a certain book 
readable because "it is easy to understand"; "it has no big 
words in it"; "it is written so you can read right along." Such 
testimonies have led us to inquire, What are the elements in a 
book that make it "easy to understand" and allow the reader 
"to read right along"? The major part of the present study is 
devoted to finding an answer to this question. 

4. The facts obtained relative to difficulty show that forty- 
four structural elements of the kind mentioned on page 12 
bear some relationship to difficulty. Sometimes the relationship 
is in the direction of ease, as in the case of simple sentences, 
personal pronouns, monosyllables, familiar words, and so on. 
Again, it is in the direction of difficulty, as for long sentences, a 
widely diversified vocabulary, hard words, and certain other ele- 
ments that exert a negative influence on ease of comprehension. 



1 6 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

More than twenty elements were found to bear significant rela- 
tionship to difficulty. Among them are such elements as ex- 
plicit sentences, length of sentence, simple sentences, and words 
not known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade pupils. Elements bear- 
ing little relationship to difficulty include parenthetical expres- 
sions, words beginning with w, /*, or <?, bisyllables, and others. 
Their influence on difficulty is notably less than that of the 
most significant elements. 

The findings indicate that the relationship of certain elements 
to difficulty varies also with different kinds of readers. The less 
able the reader the higher the relationship. For example, the 
relationship between figures of speech and difficulty is markedly 
high for readers of limited ability and markedly low for good 
readers. Hence, the presence of that element cannot be taken 
as a reliable indicator of the difficulty of the selection in which 
it occurs, save for a particular kind of reader. 

5. The findings show that it is possible to estimate the diffi- 
culty of reading materials by the use of any one significant ele- 
ment of difficulty. They show also that a more reliable estimate 
can be made by the use of several elements. For instance, count- 
ing the number of different words in a selection gives a fairly 
good measure of its difficulty. Counting other elements prepo- 
sitional phrases, simple sentences, and personal pronouns 
gives a much better indication of difficulty. As determined by 
the procedures adopted in this study, the best estimate of the 
difficulty of a selection involves the use of eight elements : num- 
ber of different hard words, number of easy words, percentage 
of monosyllables, number of personal pronouns, average sen- 
tence-length in words, percentage of different words, number of 
prepositional phrases, and percentage of simple sentences. That 
smaller combinations of the same elements give about as good 
an estimate of difficulty at an expenditure of considerably less 
time and effort is shown in a later chapter. 

6. Interesting findings resulted from an analysis and classifi- 
cation of 350 books according to structural difficulty. Their 
predicted scores distribute themselves in a close approximation 



WHAT THE REPORT IS ABOUT 17 

of the normal curve. Relatively few books were found to be 
simple enough to rank among materials suited to a reading 
achievement lower than fifth grade. The largest number rank 
at an area of difficulty termed "average." They present no 
greater difficulty from a structural point of view than school 
readers prepared for sixth grade and junior high school. Some 
few books among the 350 rank "difficult" or 'Very difficult/' 
indicating that they afford structural obstacles beyond the com- 
prehension of most adults of limited reading ability. 

Each of these findings is based on a quantity of supporting 
data, tabulated and summarized in the remaining chapters of 
the report and in the Appendix. Statistical proof for the accu- 
racy and reliability of the findings, their interpretation for prac- 
tical purposes, and recommendations for supplementing them 
by further investigations are also presented in later sections of 
this volume. 

APPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS 

The problem undertaken in this study was conceived as one 
of practical value in improving the reading habits of adults. 
Ample testimony has accumulated to indicate that obstacles to 
easy, enjoyable reading add to the already complex task of pro- 
viding for the varied needs and interests of the reading public. 
Hence, the identification of difficulty-elements which are in- 
herent in reading materials promises a means whereby those 
now available may be better adapted to adult readers and new 
materials be prepared which the largest possible audience will 
find readable. As other aspects of readability are studied, it 
should be possible to accomplish both undertakings with still 
greater success. 

How information concerning factors of readability and ele- 
ments of difficulty may be put to practical use is considered in 
chapters v to viii. In chapters v and vi we have illustrated how 
the findings of this study may be used by librarians and others 
in estimating in an objective and reasonably reliable manner 
both the relative and the absolute difficulty of general reading 



1 8 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

materials. If our ranking of these materials approximates the 
order of difficulty that librarians would assign to them on the 
basis of opinion alone, then the study has been worth while in 
giving objective support to subjective practice. If, on the other 
hand, the difficulty assigned does not accord with the judgment 
of librarians, then the worth of the study lies in part in propos- 
ing an objective method of estimating reading difficulty and in 
part in suggesting problems which merit further consideration, 

In chapter vii we have recommended for librarians, teachers, 
and advisers of adult reading certain procedures for estimating 
how well a person can read and what reading material is of ap- 
propriate difficulty for him. Some of these procedures are al- 
ready in use. Others have been tested experimentally. Still 
others are purely theoretical. Their usefulness in a practical 
advisory situation remains to be shown by librarians and others. 
All of the proposed procedures aim to do the same thing, name- 
ly, to translate the ability of the reader and the difficulty of 
reading material into common terms so that a knowledge of the 
one will supply knowledge of the other. Information concerning 
the reader's ability undoubtedly can be secured best by li- 
brariansj readers' advisers, and teachers, as has been done in 
the past. Facts concerning the difficulty of reading material 
probably should be supplied by some centralized agency whose 
chief function would be to compute the index of difficulty for 
general reading material and to make these indexes known 
among publishers, librarians, and counselors of adult reading. 

If we are to accept the evidence that much of the general 
reading material now available is too difficult for the adult of 
limited reading experience, and if we can prove that a simplifi- 
cation of certain elements reduces the difficulty of the material, 
then the preparation of simple books may be greatly en- 
couraged. But the simplification cannot be left to sheer guess- 
work. Among other things, it must take cognizance of reliable 
evidence concerning the modes of expression that please or dis- 
concert particular classes of readers. In chapter viii we have 
suggested tentative standards of difficulty to serve as guides in 



WHAT THE REPORT IS ABOUT 19 

preparing material for adult readers at given levels of ability. 
Inasmuch as these standards pertain only to structural ele- 
ments of expression, they should be supplemented by others as 
rapidly as they are identified. 

It is not expected that an author can revolutionize his style 
of expression to fit these standards all at once. In most cases it 
is not desirable that he should do so. Conscious attention to 
such matters may prove disastrous. What any writer can do, 
however, is to become familiar with materials that meet certain 
standards and then consciously aim to adapt his manner of 
writing to the level of the greatest possible audience. 

SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY 

It seems important to repeat that the present report is not 
intended to settle the question of what makes a book readable. 
On the contrary, its major purpose is to open up the whole ques- 
tion and reveal some of its manifold ramifications. By so doing 
at least three outcomes are hoped for: first, that it will indicate 
the possibility of identifying objectively some of the charac- 
teristics which determine readability for particular classes of 
readers; second, that it will suggest the possibility of controlled 
investigation of these various characteristics now in urgent need 
of consideration; and, third, that it will pave the way to the 
development of objective procedures for selecting and prepar- 
ing readable books to supersede impressionistic judgment. 

That the present study of difficulty is not a model to be fol- 
lowed by investigators of other aspects of readability is admit- 
ted by the many limitations presented earlier in the chapter. 
A series of controlled investigations covering all the major as- 
pects of the problem is needed to remove these limitations and 
to exemplify methods of procedure that will produce the most 
reliable findings. We propose in this connection that questions 
of the following sort be considered: 

1. To what extent does difficulty of content affect readability for different 
kinds of readers ? 

2. What other qualities of content than structural elements are related to 
difficulty of understanding? 



ao WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

3. How are elements of expression related to difficulty in different kinds of 
content: history, travel, science, etc.? 

4. To what extent is a reader's interest in a selection related to his ability to 
read the selection satisfactorily, regardless of its structural elements? 

5. Does particular reading material present equal difficulty when read for 
different purposes? 

6. Is the difficulty of a selection related to a reader's impression that the se- 
lection is easy or hard? 

7. To what extent does a reader's familiarity with a subject affect the in- 
fluence of structural elements on understanding ? 

8. Are structural elements related to difficulty in the same degree for readers 
with different racial and cultural backgrounds? 

9. How much weight can be given to structural elements in determining the 
total difficulty of a selection ? 

It is important that each of these and other problems sug- 
gested by this report be subjected to carefully controlled inves- 
tigation in order that the facts concerning difficulty be made as 
reliable and comprehensive as possible. When the evidence has 
been extended far enough to define difficulty for different kinds 
of readers, reading different types of material for different pur- 
poses, it will be possible to carry experimentation in writing 
much farther than this report suggests. By utilizing elements of 
difficulty in varying amounts, we may eventually determine the 
appropriateness of the material for particular groups of readers 
in a variety of reading situations. 

It is also important that such a series of studies be supple- 
mented by further investigation and experimentation of a simi- 
lar nature with respect to other aspects of readability. With the 
combined findings of all these efforts to serve as a guide, more 
reading materials should be produced for adults of limited read- 
ing ability, to the end that their present reading ventures will 
develop ultimately into permanent reading habits. 



CHAPTER II 
WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 

A ALREADY mentioned, recent investigations indicate 
that the quality of reading material which is called 
"readability" influences directly the reading habits of 
adults. It seems equally true that accessibility of books pro- 
motes wide reading. An essential step, therefore, in improving 
reading habits is to provide adults with materials that will be 
readable for them. 

But what is meant by the term readable^ Does it imply only 
qualities which are inherent in a book? Is it dependent upon 
individual characteristics of a particular reader? Or does it ex- 
press a certain relationship between qualities inherent in the 
book and individual characteristics of the reader? These ques- 
tions indicate the complexity of the task of selecting and pro- 
ducing readable books for different kinds of readers. One of the 
first steps in a comprehensive study of the problem is to deter- 
mine the qualities of a book which may influence its readability, 

We have accordingly undertaken, within certain limitations, 
to discover the meaning librarians, publishers, and others in- 
terested in adult education attach to the term "readability." 
If a book is a composite of several qualities, how much impor- 
tance do these persons assign to the various components? It is 
not our intention to arrive at a valid definition of readability 
from sheer opinion. It is rather to determine the extent to which 
readability has the same or different meaning for persons en- 
gaged in preparing and selecting readable books for others to 
read. 

We have hoped to accomplish at least three other objectives: 
first, to secure a comprehensive list of the qualities of a book 
which may contribute to its readability; second, to identify one 
aspect of readability for more intensive study at this time; and, 



22 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

finally, to suggest the general character of subsequent studies 
which are needed before a particular book can be designated 
readable or non-readable for a particular kind of reader. 

CHARACTERISTICS OF A READABLE BOOK AS 
DESCRIBED IN RECENT LITERATURE 

An examination of the literature bearing on adult reading 
shows that an interpretation of the term "readable" occurs with 
less frequency than does the term itself. A few writers have at- 
tempted to define readable materials in terms of a specific kind 
of reader on the basis of observation or investigation. Others 
have implied a broad meaning of readability. The majority have 
referred to readable books but have failed to indicate the mean- 
ing which they attach to the word readable. 

In the language of the dictionary, a readable book is one 
"that may be read with satisfaction or interest; that is attrac- 
tive in style or treatment; that is easy and pleasant to read." 
There is implied in this definition the idea that the test of a 
readable book lies in the pleasurable reaction which it creates 
in the reader by its content, by its attractive style, or by the 
ease with which it can be read. In the light of this definition, 
therefore, we need to discover three things : what is interesting 
to different groups of readers, what style is attractive to them, 
and what material is easy for them to read. With this infor- 
mation we can then select for a particular group of readers a 
book that in the terms of the dictionary will be readable for 
them. 

Knowledge is readable, according to James Harvey Robin- 
son, "when it is humanized." 1 In The Humanizing of Knowl- 
edge he holds that a book for the general reader "with no great 
surplus of time, preparation, attention or initial interest" must 
do three things: first, it must enlist the reader's attention; sec- 
ond, the facts and information must be presented in terms and 
in an order which will be understood by him and will fit into his 

* James Harvey Robinson, The Humanizing of Knowledge. New York: George H. 
Doran Co., 1923. Pp. 120. 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 23 

way of looking at things; and, finally, the significance of the in- 
formation in its bearing on the reader's thought and conduct 
and his judgment of others should be wisely suggested. 2 

How can these results be attained? When does a book enlist 
the reader's attention? How can facts and information be pre- 
sented so that they will be understood? In part, according to 
Robinson, by means of a subject that is vividly and persistently 
interesting; in part, through use of the story form, which makes 
the best and surest kind of appeal; in part, through "good little 
books, easy to slip into one's pocket or bag"; and, finally, 
through simplicity of language and style, which is lacking alto- 
gether too frequently. 

He says, 

Most books are simply too long and too hard for even ambitious and in- 
telligent readers. For to be simple is to be sympathetic and to endeavor to 

bring what one says or writes close up to those one is addressing And 

the great art in writing is not to exhibit one's own insight and learning but 
really to influence those whom one is aiming to influence. 3 

The Subcommittee on Readable Books of the American Li- 
brary Association has defined a readable book for the middle 
group of readers ranking between the specialist and the person 
of extremely academic turn of mind at one end of the scale and 
the reader of light fiction at the other. For this middle group, 
the Committee designates a readable book as one having seven 
characteristics: simplicity of knowledge, non-technical treat- 
ment, brevity of statement, fluency, adult approach, vitality, 
and certain physical features. 4 Although the Committee has 
made some concessions on several points, it stands firm on two 
which it believes essential to readability. The book must be 
simple enough to be understood, and it must have a degree of 
vitality; otherwise it is not readable. How simple a book must 
be to be readable for different types of readers and how vitality 
can be measured are problems suggested by the Committee's 
point of view. 

*Ibut. 9 p. 105. * Ibid., pp. 88-89. 

* Emma Felsenthal, Readable Books on Many Subjects (Chicago: American Library 
Association, 1929), p. 4. 



24 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

Waples has reached the conclusion from his study of what 
people actually read that librarians and publishers must find 
out what the reader wants to read about and what are his pref- 
erences concerning author, style, length of treatment, and the 
like. 5 In this way they may increase the reader's satisfaction 
with what he reads. 

Chancellor's inquiry concerning the suitability of available 
reading material for native-born adult illiterates and near- 
illiterates has brought together the opinions of educational 
workers and librarians who have had experience with the prob- 
lem either directly or indirectly. 6 The net result of his inquiry 
shows a general opinion that much of the published material 
now available for the groups in question fails to be readable for 
one of three reasons. It is too difficult; it progresses too rapidly 
in difficulty; or its content is not sufficiently interesting to 
adults. Since this opinion is based on experience with illiterates 
and near-illiterates, it is presumably reliable. It suggests the 
need for objective investigation to determine what elements in 
materials contribute to difficulty for such readers; how rapidly 
a story can progress before it becomes disconcerting; and what 
content is most interesting. Knowing the answers to these ques- 
tions, we can select books which will be more readable for these 
readers, if such books exist; or we can prepare materials better 
suited to their needs and tastes. 

A recent study by Conrad is concerned with the appropriate- 
ness of elementary school reading texts for use in teaching adult 
illiterates and near-illiterates. 7 The findings show that three fac- 
tors influence vitally the choice of books the quality of vocab- 
bulary, repetition of words, and good sentence structure. Three 

s Douglas Waples, "The Relation of Subject Interests to Actual Reading," Library 
Quarterly \ II (January, 1931), 42-70. 

6 John Chancellor, "Available Reading Material for Native-born Adult Illiterates 
and Near-Illiterates." Mimeographed. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Prisons, Depart- 
ment of Justice, 1933. Pp. 35, 

? L. R. Conrad, "Investigation in Reading Material for Native Adult Illiterates and 
Near-Illiterates." Mimeographed. Chillicothe, Ohio: United States Industrial Reform- 
atory, 1933. 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 25 

other factors hygienic requirements, nature of the content, 
and interest factors are of slightly less importance. Conrad 
has gone so far as to describe what seem to be the requisites of 
reading material appropriate for the men in his prison-school. 
It is significant that all the requisites are aimed to make the 
material easy to read, implying that for this group material 
which can be read is readable. 

The foregoing discussion indicates the variety of meanings 
which writers attach to the term "readable/* Some are based 
on sheer opinions; others, on observation and experience; and 
others, on experimentation. It seems important to note that 
despite the variety of interpretations offered by different writ- 
ers, two aspects are generally held essential to a readable book. 
One is interesting content, and the other, a presentation simple 
enough to be understood. The extent to which these two as- 
pects are commonly considered important by librarians and 
others who advise adults in their reading, by publishers, or by 
persons interested in adult education, will be shown in subse- 
quent sections of this report. 

COMPILING A LIST OF POSSIBLE FACTORS THAT MAY 

INFLUENCE READABILITY FOR READERS OF 

LIMITED ABILITY 

According to the plan outlined in this chapter, we have under- 
taken to discover the trend of opinion relative to the meaning 
of readability for the purpose of defining lines of investigation 
needed in the field. In order that all who participated in the 
study might have opportunity to consider the same factors, a 
list was prepared which included as many potential factors of 
readability as could be obtained. The list was compiled from 
responses of a large number of librarians, readers' advisers, 
publishers, and other persons interested in adult education who 
were questioned as to the factors which they believe contribute 
to readability for adults of limited education. It was desirable 
that their replies to the inquiry should not be influenced by sug- 
gestion. The term "readability," therefore, was not defined. In- 



a6 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

stead, each person was asked to interpret the term for himself 
and then to define or explain quite explicitly any factor he 
listed. Approximately one hundred replies were received to the 
inquiry. A few librarians good-naturedly admitted some reluc- 
tance about "going on record" concerning factors which make 
books readable, despite the fact that they are daily engaged in 
passing judgment on the readability of particular books. 

When factors listed in the various replies were examined, it 
was found that they could be classified into a single list. Certain 
ones were grouped as components of a larger aspect of reada- 
bility, and these, in turn, as components of a still larger aspect. 
For example, suggested factors included "numerous illustra- 
tions," "cartoon- type of pictures," "illustrations adjacent to 
the text," "appropriate diagrams/' "colored inserts," and so on. 
These factors obviously belong to a single aspect, illustrations, 
which is a subdivision of format. 

The classified list of 289 factors as finally compiled contained 
four major categories designated by Roman numerals: (I) For- 
mat or Mechanical Features, (II) General Features of Organiza- 
tion, (III) Style of Expression and Presentation, and (IV) Con- 
tent. Under each category were placed a number of related gen- 
eral aspects designated by Arabic numerals* Under each of these 
were listed the specific factors, a y b> c, and so on. A section of 
the classified list is shown on p. 27. 

Since direct contradiction occurred between certain factors 
and a degree of overlapping among others, the composite list 
was by no means free from inconsistencies. For example, one 
person held that a readable book for a reader of limited ability 
should employ questions and answers; another stated that it 
should use no questions and answers; whereas a third believed 
that a judicious use of questions and answers promotes reada- 
bility. All three opinions appear in the composite list. Since no 
factor was tabulated unless it had been suggested in response to 
our inquiry, the list was obviously not exhaustive. 



A SECTION FROM THE LIST OF POSSIBLE FACTORS 
OF READABILITY IN BOOKS 







I. FORMAT or MECHANICAL PTSATTJRES 




j 1. Size of Book 






a. Small 








b* Avernse 






c. Larger than a textbook 






d. About 5" by 8" 






? ^out 14 cm* by 16 ciiu 






. HKnt-weisht 






a; Coiaf of table 






li i.'ot forbicldina 






1, Abo^i t 2Q onu oy 14 cm 














1 2. Number of Pages 


1 




a. Brief 






b. About 50 papces 






c. About 75 pages 






d. About 64-96 oaffes 






e. About 300 Dagos 




f. About 125-5L5O pr> 




. About 200 pa^es 




h. About 30O-400 PXD. 




! About 200-3OO DP 








1 3, -Duality of Paper 


I 




a. Opaque 






b. Dull-surfaced 




f. Even-colored 




aiite 




e. Not white 




f * Pleasant to. touch 




K . Qood 




h. Glossy 








1 4. Kind of Type and Printing 






a. Larp;e 






b. Good-sized 




c. Medium 




d* Small 




e. About 11 pt 




About 12-14 pt^ 




f;* Not under 8 pt 




tu No* 7. Old Style 




1* 4 pts leading 




k. Well spaced 




1* Open face 




ITU Black ink 




u Dull lak 





28 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

TECHNIQUE OF OBTAINING OPINION RELATIVE TO 
FACTORS OF READABILITY 

In order to determine the relative importance attached to the 
factors of readability, the classified list was sent to the persons- 
who had answered the original inquiry and to a number of addi- 
tional librarians and publishers. They were asked to evaluate 
each major category and each general aspect for its influence on 
readability, and to indicate what they believe to be the impor- 
tance of specific factors for readers of limited ability. The fol- 
lowing directions were given : 

METHOD OF SCORING AND CHECKING 

Three columns are set up at the right of each page of listed factors, desig- 
nated A, B, C. Column A is to be used for checking specific factors; Column 
B, for evaluating general aspects; and Column C, for evaluating the four 
major categories. 

Examine the complete list of factors and note the general aspects and cate- 
gories into which they have been classified, in order to familiarize yourself 
with the general set-up of the list. You will note that there is direct contra- 
diction among some factors, apparent overlapping of others, and close simi- 
larity among others. This has resulted from including all possible factors of 
readability suggested by the correspondents. 

First step. Look over the factors, designated a, , c, etc., and decide which 
ones, in your judgment, make for readability. Indicate your decision by check- 
ing such factors (i/) in Column A. If you wish to show that certain factors 
are of special significance, indicate by (i/i/)- Leave blank spaces after fac- 
tors that you believe are insignificant or do not make for readability. Space 
has been left for additional factors. Please include any that you think have 
been omitted. 

Second step. Consider the total value of the general aspects i, 2, 3, etc., 
in each major category as equal to 100 points. Look over the general aspects 
in Category I, and evaluate their relative importance in promoting reada- 
bility. Distribute the total value, 100 points, among these subdivisions to 
indicate their proportionate values. Write the values in Column B, opposite 
each. Be sure that the sum of all values assigned to aspects I, 2, 3, etc., 
equals 100 points, which is the total value of Category I. 

Next, do the same thing for Category II, then for Category III, and finally 
for Category IV. In each case, distribute 100 points among their respective 
general aspects, writing in Column B. Each category should total 100 points. 

Third step. Now consider the total value of all four categories, I, II, III, 
IV, as equal to 100 points. Decide what proportion of 100 points best repre- 
sents the value of each category in influencing readability. Distribute the 100 
points among the four categories, as your judgment dictates. Write the as- 
signed value in Column C after each category. The sum of the four values 
should total 100 points. 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 29 

THE NATURE OF THE REPLIES 

About ninety persons checked and returned the list, having 
followed all or part of the directions. Occasionally they omitted 
the first or second step* In every case, however, they carried 
out the directions concerning the third step. It is probably 
easier to evaluate the relative influence of large categories on 
readability than to judge the importance of specific factors. 

Some of the judges had acquired definite views concerning 
the factors which contribute to readability and checked the list 
with considerable assurance. Others approached the list with 
extreme conservatism, declaring that there was no item which 
could be endorsed or eliminated without some qualification. A 
few chose to check only the factors that they believe generally 
contribute to readability, since their experience with individual 
readers had been limited. Similarly, several publishers checked 
those factors which they consider indispensable in the actual 
practice of producing readable books for all readers. 

A number of judges misunderstood our motive and felt that 
we were attempting to obtain merely a general impression about 
readability. Hence they objected to checking the list, "since 
there can be no generalization concerning factors of readabili- 
ty." One publisher stated, " I can't bring myself to the point of 
believing that the factors of readability can be stabilized and 
labeled as this investigation attempts to do." To this statement 
we are in mingled accord and disagreement. In accord because 
an inquiry such as this one cannot establish a particular aspect 
of a book as a factor of readability, nor does it attempt to do so; 
in disagreement, because it seems tenable to assume that when 
the reading interests, tastes, capacities, and needs of certain 
kinds of readers have been discovered, we shall be able to de- 
fine a readable book for them. 

ORGANIZATION OF THE DATA 

Seventy-nine judges carried out all directions of the inquiry. 
Of this number thirty-four are librarians or readers' advisers, 
sixteen are publishers, and twenty-nine, directors or teachers of 



30 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

adult classes. Their opinions are recorded in this chapter in the 
following order: 

First, the relative weight assigned to the four major cate- 
gories is summarized in terms of the mean judgment, the stand- 
ard deviation of the mean, and the range for all judges as well 
as for the three groups of judges. The mean judgment is con- 
sidered the "characteristic" weight of each category (within 
certain statistical limitations). That the inquiry should reveal 
some discrepancies of opinion was expected. The degree of these 
discrepancies among the different groups of judges and among 
judges within a group is indicated by the standard deviation and 
the range. 

Judgment concerning the four major categories has been 
given first for two reasons. One is to give a broad view of factors 
of readability as they are evaluated by the judges; the other, to 
indicate the order of presentation to be followed later in report- 
ing opinion concerning each category. 

After the evaluation of the four major categories, judgment 
relative to content is summarized according to the separate 
factors believed to contribute to readability and according to 
the relative influence of the factors when classified into genera] 
aspects of content. Opinions concerning style of expression and 
presentation are given next, followed by a record of opinions 
pertaining to factors of format. Finally, summarized tabula- 
tions are given bearing on features of organization which all 
groups of judges consider of some significance for readability. 

JUDGMENT CONCERNING THE RELATIVE INFLUENCE OF THE 

FOUR MAJOR CATEGORIES OF POSSIBLE 

FACTORS OF READABILITY 

Table I presents the summary of opinion relative to the four 
major categories into which possible factors of readability have 
been classified. The same facts are shown graphically in Fig- 
ure i. 

Factors which all judges believe have greatest influence on 
readability belong to content. Its mean value is 33.64 per cent. 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 31 

Second in influence are factors of style, with a mean value of 
30.71 per cent. According to the combined opinion of all judges, 
then, if you give a reader a theme which interests him, that is, 
one that he wants to read about, you have the problem of 
readability one-third solved. Furthermore, if in addition you 

TABLE I 

SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT CONCERNING THE RELATIVE INFLUENCE ON READABILITY 
OF THE FOUR MAJOR CATEGORIES 



MAJOR CATEGORY 


ALL PERSONS 


LIBRARIANS 


PUBLISHERS 


OTHERS INTER- 
ESTED IN ADULT 
EDUCATION 


M. 


cr 


Range 


M. 


f 


Range 


M. 


a- 


Range 


M. 


<r 


Range 


I. Format 


20.26 
iS-38 

30.71 
33-64 


7.68 
7.04 

9.17 
13.11 


45-5 
40-3 

50-0 
75-7 


24.13 
15.71 

32.74 
27.42 


7.64 

6. 59 

8-39 
9-95 


45-7 
26-3 

SO-20 
50-7 


17.08 

15- 4* 

32.92 
34.58 


5.20 
6.37 

8.j 7 
12.83 


25-10 
30-5 

50-25 
50-10 


17.92 
15.20 

27.50 
39-37 


6,37 
7-24 

9.24 
12-54 


30-5 
40-5 

40-5 
75-20 


II. General Features of Or- 
ganization . . , 


III. Style of Expression and 
Presentation 


IV. Content 





Per cent 




Others 



General c . . 

., features of Style of ex- 

Format rt ^ pression and Content 

organiza- r 

tion Presentation 

-Opinion concerning the influence of classified factors on readability 

.1* A. *.4>vr1ss. !* -L i-innJ. n U. d n M f* ^ J r* f% A J nn.f*.f* 4.1^ *+ t* * ~. J.'i 



find out the style which best fits his needs and tastes, that is, the 
scope of vocabulary and the kind of sentences which he reads 
easily and the type of presentation he reads with pleasure, then 
you have the final solution of the problem close at hand. At least 
it is 64.35 P er cent solved, as measured by the combined mathe- 
matical judgment of seventy-nine judges. 



32 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

Publishers and others interested in adult education also give 
content a place of first importance, as indicated in the table by 
their respective mean values of 34.58 per cent and 39.37 per 
cent. Publishers, however, give style so nearly the same value 
on the average that no significant precedence can be claimed by 
content. Directors and teachers of adult education, on the other 
hand, generally consider content of greatest worth, one person 
giving it a value of 75 per cent, and none less than 20 per cent. 
Librarians as a group consider style of slightly greater influence 
on readability than content. 

All groups agree fairly well that less than 40 per cent of the 
total contribution of all factors toward making a book readable 
is made by format and organization. It appears on the basis of 
this evidence that librarians, publishers, and others would make 
readability depend finally upon agreeable content and style. 
Nevertheless, they recognize the importance of attractive for- 
mat, size, weight, general mechanical set-up, and a desirable 
organization. How closely this opinion coincides with the actual 
facts remains to be determined by experimentation with dif- 
ferent kinds of books among many kinds of readers. 

In general, the degree of variability of individual judgment 
is about the same for all groups, except with respect to content. 
A comparison of the standard deviations (<r) for this category 
shows that the mean assigned by librarians is more nearly repre- 
sentative of all values than is the mean value of any other group. 
That is to say, since 9.95 is smaller than other standard devia- 
tions, the mean value of content, 27.42, is a more reliable value 
than are the mean values obtained for publishers and persons 
interested in adult education. It appears, therefore, that li- 
brarians are in closest agreement as to the influence of content 
on readability. The least diversity of opinion for all categories 
except content is found among publishers. This agreement is to 
be expected. The very nature of the publishing enterprise prob- 
ably creates in the publisher a more critical attitude toward 
a book as a whole than exists among the other groups of 
judges. 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 



33 



WHAT FACTORS OF CONTENT INFLUENCE READABILITY? 

We have just summarized opinion relative to the influence on 
readability of factors classified into major categories. We have 
shown also that factors of content are considered of greatest im- 
portance by the mean evaluation of all judges. But content is 
a general quality that may be thought of in many ways, in 
terms of a specific theme, in terms of its appeal to the reader, 
and so on. It seems important, therefore, to examine the vari- 
ous aspects of content as they have been classified in the check- 

TABLE II 

FACTORS RELATED TO CONTENT RANKED OP GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE 
TO READABILITY BY EACH GROUP OF JUDGES 



Factors Ranked in Highest One- 
Fourth of 47 Factors 



Factors Ranked in Lowest One- 
Fourth of 47 Factors 



2/2* Timely subject matter 

ig Theme people and personalities 

im Theme travel and business 

i/ Theme romance and action 

in Theme one of human interest 

2J Interesting subject matter 

id Theme adventure 



ic Theme history not important 
ij Theme not just ideas 
ik Theme not theories 
is Theme opposed to reality 
iq Theme not analysis of human ex- 
perience 



* Refers to classified item* in Appendix A. 

list in order to determine which ones are held generally impor- 
tant or unimportant. Since the judges who co-operated in the 
inquiry are actively engaged in producing, selecting, or recom- 
mending books for adult readers, agreement concerning specific 
factors that presumably affect readability is to be expected. 

Table II lists the factors of content ranked of greatest and 
least importance by each of the three groups of judges, impor- 
tance being determined by the number of times the factors are 
checked. A factor is considered of greatest importance if it 
ranks above the third quartile, that is, in the highest one-fourth, 
in a distribution of all factors according to the number of times 
each is checked by each group of judges. A factor ranking be- 
low the first quartile, that is, in the lowest one-fourth of the 



34 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

same distribution, is considered of least importance. It must be 
emphasized that the rank of a particular factor solely on the 
basis of number of times it is checked does not define its actual 
degree of importance. It rather defines the relative importance 
which groups of judges have assigned to it. It is altogether prob- 
able that a highly important factor may be given little weight 
because in the absence of objective evidence only a few far- 
seeing persons in a group have grasped its true significance. 
Data presented in Table II, therefore, show no more than the 
trend of opinion among all groups of judges with respect to 
factors of content which they believe make a book readable for 
readers of limited ability. In Tables LXVI, LXVII, and 
LXVIII, Appendix B, are listed the factors ranked of greatest 
and least importance by librarians, publishers, and others in- 
terested in adult education, respectively. 

Examination of Table II shows that in the opinion of most 
judges the content of a readable book for readers of limited 
ability should be timely (20) and interesting (2/), and that its 
theme should be of human interest (i#), about people and per- 
sonalities (ig-), travel and business (im)> romance and action 
(i/), or adventure (i^). According to the opinion of librarians 
and other persons interested in adult education, the most im- 
portant aspect of content is timeliness, irrespective of the theme 
presented. Publishers, on the other hand, give more frequent 
mention to the nature of the theme, ranking adventure (id] 
first; science and invention (i<?) second; human interest (in) 
third; and so on. A timely topic (20) ranks seventh. The ma- 
jority of judges in all groups "double-checked" ig and id to 
indicate that they believe themes about people and personalities 
and about adventure are of special significance in promoting 
readability. Librarians have observed profound interest in these 
themes among readers of limited ability. Accordingly, some 
have endorsed the simplification of popular novels of such 
authors as Zane Grey and Oliver Curwood, for the near-illiterate 
reader. 8 

* Chancellor, op. /., p, 5. 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 



35 



Is it important that the content of a book for limited readers 
be "not just ideas'* (y), "not theory" (i), that it be "opposed 
to reality" (u), or that it avoid "analyzing human experience" 
(i#) ? Some individual judges expressed such a belief in our pre- 
liminary survey. However, when they evaluated the factors lat- 
er they generally considered them of little importance. In other 
words, a writer need not avoid theories or realities when writing 
for limited readers provided that he is concerned with what is 
timely and of human interest. Although the observations of li- 
brarians with respect to what people want to read are helpful, 
more scientific data are available. Objective evidence concern- 
ing the common interests of groups of readers, compiled by 
Waples and Tyler, answers the perplexing question concerning 
what people want to read about. 9 This evidence undoubtedly 
solves one of the major problems of readability. 

THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF GENERAL 
ASPECTS OF CONTENT 

Table III summarizes the value attached to general aspects 
of content after the manner described on page 30. The mean 

TABLE III 

SUMMARY or JUDGMENT CONCERNING THE RELATIVE INFLUENCE ON READABILITY 
OF GENERAL ASPECTS OF CONTENT 



GENERAL ASPECT 


ALL PERSONS 


LIBRARIANS 


PUBLISHERS 


OTHERS INTER- 
ESTED IN ADULT 
EDUCATION 


M. 


v 


Range 


M. 


tf 


Range 


M. 


<r 


Range 


M. 


<r 


Range 


i. Theme P , 


47.36 
37-24 
15.40 


xi,oa 
9.31 
8-79 


80-10 
75~i S 
35- 


46.77 
37-44 
15.81 


9.16 


75-30 
50-25 
35-o 


47-aS 
34-43 
18.33 


IO.20 
6.60 
8.98 


67-30 
50-30 
30-10 


46.51 
40.20 
13.28 


13.23 

12.01 
8.06 


80-10 
75-1$ 
25-0 


2. Nature of subject matter 





values (Fig, 2) show an unmistakable similarity of opinion 
among the three groups of judges. Theme is assigned highest 
value by all groups; nature of subject matter, second highest; 

9 Douglas Waples and Ralph W. Tyler, What People Want to Read About. Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1931. Pp. 31 a. 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



and unity of content, lowest value. These ratings are in har- 
mony with the tabulations presented in the previous section. 

It is apparent from the size of the standard deviations that 
closest agreement of opinion persists among librarians, and least 
agreement among persons interested in adult education. Mean 
opinions of the latter group regarding theme and nature of sub- 
ject matter are considerably less reliable than the opinions of 
other groups. 



Per cent 



100 




All Judges 
Librarians 
Publishers 
Others 



r Nature of subject Unity of 

Theme matter content 

FIG. 2. An evaluation of the general aspects of content 
FACTORS OF STYLE CONTRIBUTING TO READABILITY 

According to the data presented in Table I, style ranks second 
in importance among the four major categories when the opin- 
ions of all judges are taken together. It may be recalled, how- 
ever, that librarians as a group consider style the greatest con- 
tributor to readability. This opinion is held by many individu- 
als in all groups. For example, one publisher dismisses the en- 
tire problem of readability in the following words: "What is a 
readable book? It is a good story, well told." A readers' adviser 
states, "When the reader of limited ability wants a readable 
book, he wants a simple, pleasing style, an easy flow of expres- 
sion/' Another says, "I feel very strongly that among the 
qualities that contribute to readability, elusive qualities of 
style .... and expression are foremost." This latter point of 
view is expressed again by a director of adult classes as follows: 
"For good reading, style is paramount/' 

Most of these and similar statements are followed by a list of 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 



37 



specific factors pertaining to style of expression and presenta- 
tion which the writer considers important. As a result of the 
emphasis which it receives, this category, designated No. Ill in 
the classified list, contains the largest number of individual 
factors. 

When the total list was submitted to the judges for checking, 
it was encouraging to discover a surprising agreement among all 

TABLE IV 

FACTORS RELATED TO STYLE OF EXPRESSION AND PRESENTATION RANKED OF 

GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY 

EACH GROUP OF JUDGES 



Factors Ranked in Highest One- 
Fourth of 116 Factors 



Factors Ranked in Lowest One- 
Fourth of 116 Factors 



it Adult vocabulary 

yd Lucid, clear presentation 

af Sentences not too involved 

80? Start with the familiar 

50 Enthusiastic attitude of the author 

8 Adult approach 

ik Non-technical vocabulary 

4<r Chapters stimulating at beginning 

a Sentences varied in length 

ja Direct presentation 

is Informal vocabulary 

4^ Chapters promising at end 

6a Narrative style 

6c Descriptive style 

3^ Paragraphs varied in length 

4^ Clearcut chapters 



ih Short words 

ir Non-classical vocabulary 

jo Distinguished style 

5/ Emotional, sentimental attitude of 
author 

in Vernacular (even colloquial) vocabu- 
lary 

6e Poetic style 

7^ Charming style 

y/ Picturesque style 

87 Parables 

ib Vocabulary limited to 1000-1500 
words 

le Vocabulary easy enough for 12-14- 
year-old child 

$c Moralizing attitude of author 

\d Exaggeration 

8z Phantasy 



groups regarding the factors of style which they believe are im- 
portant in readable material. Table IV shows the factors of 
greatest and least importance according to the combined opin- 
ion of the three groups of judges. In Appendix B, Tables LXIX, 
LXX, and LXXI, is given the opinion of each individual group 
concerning important factors of style in a readable book. 

The weight of opinion of all judges is that an informal (u), 
non- technical (i&) 3 adult (if) vocabulary is an important con- 



38 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

tribution to readability, whereas a vocabulary limited to 1,000- 
1,500 words (i), easy enough for a 12-1 4-year-old child (i<?), is 
not essential. Neither is a vocabulary of short (lA), non-classi- 
cal words (ir), expressed in the vernacular (in) essential. These 
opinions are in harmony with the consensus of workers with 
adults. This group holds that the 4,000 most commonly used 
words found in standard word lists should certainly furnish the 
foundation of materials written for adults of limited reading 
ability. They believe it is inadvisable, on the other hand, to 
confine the vocabularies to these lists at the expense of adult 
words within the experience of the reader. 10 Contrary opinion is 
held by the advocates of an experimental vocabulary, such as 
Basic English^ which is designed "to make it possible to say 
almost everything we normally desire to say in 850 words." 11 

With respect to the importance of factors which are classified 
as stylistic devices, judges agree very generally that readable 
material should have an adult approach (8#), starting with what 
is familiar (8w) and within the reader's scale (8^). Other de- 
vices of style, such as exaggeration (8^/), parables (87), and 
phantasy (82), were either left unchecked or were checked and 
qualified by such statements as "if appropriate to the subject," 
"if the subject-matter requires," or "depending on what the 
author is attempting to do." Judges might well have added "if 
we know what kind of reader finds these devices an aid to read- 
ability." For the basic consideration in determining readability 
of a particular book is whether a particular reader finds that 
book easy and pleasant to read. 

THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF GENERAL ASPECTS OF STYLE 

By the average rating of all groups of judges shown in Table 
V and Figure 3, vocabulary, No. i,is given the highest value 
among the eight aspects of style, and chapters, No. 4, the lowest 
value. A marked similarity is observable among the mean val- 

* Chancellor, op. cit., p. 16, 

11 C K. Ogdcn, Basic English, London: Kegati Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co,, 1932, 
Pp. 96. 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 



39 



ues assigned by the three groups. Vocabulary ranks first in all 
cases. Style of presentation generally takes precedence over 
stylistic devices, which take precedence over sentences. They 
in turn tend to rank above attitude of the author. This aspect 

TABLE V 

SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT CONCERNING THE RELATIVE INFLUENCE ON READABILITY 
OF GENERAL ASPECTS OF STYLE OF EXPRESSION AND PRESENTATION 



GENERAL ASPECT 


ALL PERSONS 


LIBRARIANS 


PUBLISHERS 


OTHERS INTER- 
ESTED IN ADULT 
EDUCATION 


M. 


<r 


Range 


M. 


ff 


Range 


M. 


<r 


Range 


M. 


tr 


Range 




20.43 
11.38 
8.29 
6.63 
12.32 
10.43 
17. oo 
13.51 


8. to 
4-3* 
4-05 
3-70 
7-09 
5.61 
6,25 
6.40 


50-8 
25-5 
25-0 

20-0 
30-0 
20-0 
40-S 
30-0 


20.00 
9.96 

r-ss 
6.16 
13.81 
11.25 
17.42 
13.81 


8.38 
3.04 
3. ii 
3-90 
7.53 
5.76 
5.98 
6.50 


SO-8 
20-5 
IS-o 

20-0 
3O-0 
20-0 
30-IO 

30-3 


*3.50 
w-7S 
8.33 
5-75 
10.17 
9-S8 
17.00 
12.92 


8.98 
3-70 
3-23 
2.97 
7-57 
5-49 
8.31 
7.08 


40-12 
20-5 
15-3 

IO-O 

25-0 

20-0 

40-5 
30-0 


18.50 
12.25 
9.20 
7.64 
11-95 
9.91 
I6.& 
13.86 


5-34 
5-45 
5.12 
3.56 
5-95 
5.6i 
5.62 
5-53 


30-10 
45-5 
2S-5 
15-0 
25-3 

2O-0 

26-5 
25-5 




3. Paragraphs 




5. Attitude of author 


6. Method of presentation. . 
7. Style of presentation .... 





ICO 



Per cent 
All Judges 
Librarians 
Publishers 
Others 



> I I 1 3 a 

FIG. 3. An evaluation of general aspects of style 

of style is generally conceded more important than method of 
presentation. Since vocabulary and sentences are rated by most 
judges above other aspects pertaining to mode of expression, it 
appears reasonable to suppose that they are considered the basic 
elements of expression, which, if readable, insure readable para- 
graphs and chapters. 




WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



That the members of all groups agree fairly well in their eval- 
uation of the various aspects of style is indicated by the stand- 
ard deviations j which are generally smaller than those found for 
aspects of content. There is evidence in the range of values, 
however 3 to show that in every group one or more judges give 
zero values to certain aspects, to which others give values of 20 
or 30 per cent. It is such discrepancies as these that point to the 
need of detailed study in order to determine for whom a par- 
ticular style is readable. 

FACTORS OF FORMAT IN A READABLE BOOK 

Table VI lists the factors of format checked with greatest and 
least frequency by all groups of judges. Factors held of greatest 

TABLE VI 

FACTORS RELATED TO FORMAT RANKED OF GREATEST AND LEAST 
IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY EACH GROUP OF JUDGES 



Factors Ranked in Highest One- 
Fourth of 90 Factors 



%b Attractive binding 

9; Appropriate illustrations 

4k Well-spaced type 

9/ Maps and diagrams 

4C Clear, legible type 

7*7 Attractive page 

ib Book of average size 

i/ Light-weight book 

3^ Dull-surfaced paper 

4tn Black ink 

9 Captioned illustrations 

4/> Attractive type 

8<z Sturdy binding 



Factors Ranked in Lowest One- 
Fourth of 90 Factors 



ic Size of book larger than 

a textbook 
4?z Dull ink 
40 Large type 
4^ Small type 



and least importance by separate groups are shown in Tables 
LXXII, LXXIII, and LXXIV, Appendix B. Obviously, the 
majority of judges believe that readers of limited ability will 
find a book readable if it is of average size (ib] and light in 
weight (if). It is, as Robinson has said, "a good little book, 
easy to slip into one's pocket." Its binding is sturdy (80) and 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 4 i 

attractive (8). Its captioned illustrations (9^), maps and dia- 
grams (9/) are appropriate for the content (97). It is printed on 
dull-surfaced paper (3^) in a type that is well-spaced (4^), clear, 
legible (40), and attractive (4^). 

But these factors are not particularized. If, then, we dis- 
cover that they actually do make a book readable for readers of 
limited ability, we shall still need to determine what kind of 
binding is attractive, what size of type is most legible, what are 
the characteristics of an attractive page, and how large is a com- 
fortable book. On such issues as these we find a diversity of 
opinion. For example, an attractive page may depend in part 
on color of paper. But what is the best color of paper? The 
majority of librarians believe that non- white paper promotes 
readability; whereas publishers and others interested in adult 
education favor white paper. The latter opinion probably comes 
closer to the truth of the matter, inasmuch as there is some 
evidence to show that white, grayish, yellow, and red is the best 
order of color for legibility. 12 

Again, the three groups of judges agree that type in a read- 
able book should be well-spaced (4^), attractive (4/>), clear and 
legible (40). How can these qualities be attained? Individual 
judges favor large type, small type, Granjon type, double- 
spaced type, ii-point type, 12-14-point type, and type with 
4-point leading. Generally, however, they agree (Table VI) that 
neither large (40) nor small (4^) type is of any special impor- 
tance to readability, provided that the product obtained is at- 
tractive, clear, and legible. Disposal of the question in this fash- 
ion shows the apparent need of discovering what is the range 
of the optimum size of type which readers of limited ability 
find readable. At the present time scientific evidence bearing 
on the problem of best size of type is too conflicting and incon- 
clusive to warrant even tentative conclusions. 13 

H. Griffing and S. I. Franz, quoted by Madeline D. Vernon, The Experimental 
Study of 'Reading (Cambridge: University Press, 1931), p. 170. 

</., pp. 165-66. 



4 2 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF GENERAL 
ASPECTS OF FORMAT 

Table VII summarizes the evaluation of nine aspects of for- 
mat. In general the data are in harmony with the facts already 
presented. Kind of type and printing (No. 4) is given the high- 
est mean value for all groups. Factors belonging to this class 
are agreed upon more frequently than those of any other 
class, as shown in the first column of Tables LXXII to 
LXXIV. Furthermore, a larger number of them are checked 

TABLE VII 

SUMMARY- or JUDGMENT CONCERNING THE RELATIVE INFLUENCE ON 
READABILITY OF GENERAL ASPECTS OF FORMAT 



GENERAL ASPECT 


ALL PERSONS 


LIBRARIANS 


PUBLISHERS 


OTHERS INTER- 
ESTED IN ADULT 
EDUCATION 


M. 


<r 


Range 


M. 


<r 


Range 


M. 


<T 


Range 


M. 


9 


Range 




12.57 
7,08 
9-31 
23.21 

i 

13-07 
7.90 
13-97 


7-55 
S-49 
4.27 
10.35 
4.46 
3-77 

8.60 


50-5 
25-0 

20-O 

60-5 

2O-O 

25-0 
45-0 

20-0 

45-0 


13-32 
7-35 
9.29 
23.16 
4.58 
7-13 

14-94 
8.13 

12.10 


6.10 

6.20 

4-53 
H-93 
3-77 
4-54 

8.84 
i-48 
6.78 


30-5 
25-0 

20-0 
609 

15-0 

25-0 

40-0 

20-O 

30-0 


8.66 
4-50 
9-92 
26.04 

s 9 .if 

12.25 
7-75 
13.04 


4-U 
4-31 
2.91 

10.53 
5-13 
11.44 

5:3 

4.82 


20-5 

IO-0 

17-5 
40-15 
20-4 
10-4 

30-4 
15-5 

2O-IO 


14.31 
8.05 
9.18 
21.73 
S.4I 
o.oo 

n.73 
7-59 
16.00 


9.89 
4.82 

4.66 
7.30 
3.7 
3.01 

8.80 
3-31 
7-40 


50-5 
18-0 

20-5 

40-5 
iS-o 

I2-O 

45-o 
15-0 

2S-S 


2 Number of pages . 


3 Quality of paper. 


4. Kind of type and printing 




7. General appearance of 


8. Binding 







by occasional judges., as shown in the second column of the same 
tables. It seems probable that the judges who have definite 
views about size of type are responsible for the wide diversity 
of opinion within the various groups that is indicated in Table 
VIL This diversity may be noted in the wide range of value and 
the comparatively large standard deviation of the mean for all 
groups. Since both of these measures are largest among librari- 
ans, it is clear that this group is not in close agreement as to 
what is the relative influence of type on readability. 

Librarians and others interested in adult education rank 
length of line of least influence with notable consistency (Fig. 4). 
Publishers, however, judge number of pages of least significance, 
perhaps because they lack direct contact with readers of limited 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 



43 



ability and are therefore not aware that length of line influences 
book selection. 

An examination of range of values assigned by various groups 
shows that all publishers are more inclined to give some credit 
to each general aspect than are members of any other group. 
Although some publishers evaluate particular aspects as low as 
4 per cent, certain judges in other groups consider them of zero 
influence. Librarians especially tend to dismiss them as being 
of no consequence, with the result that one or more of these 



Per cent 
All Judges 
Librarians 
Publishers 
Others 



100 




1 lift if rll 111 I 

to O* W H-5SO pqs 

FIG. 4. An evaluation of general aspects of format 

judges give zero value to all but two of the nine general aspects. 
We may expect publishers to remain more open-minded toward 
all aspects of format than other groups, since it is the category 
most directly under their control. 

WHAT FACTORS OF ORGANIZATION INFLUENCE READABILITY? 

Data presented in Table VIII show the common opinion of 
librarians, publishers, and others concerning the factors of or- 
ganization that are of greatest and least importance to read- 
ability. These data are derived from Tables LXXV, LXXVI, 
and LXXVII, in Appendix B. 

Only thirty-seven factors were suggested originally as prob- 
able contributors to readability. Hence the number ranked in 
the highest and lowest one-fourth by all groups of judges is 
necessarily small. 



44 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

A readable book, according to the judges, has three foremost 
characteristics of organization: a striking title (ia)> a table of 
contents (4*2), and descriptive chapter headings (ia). In addi- 
tion, it has two other characteristics of almost equal importance: 
paragraph divisions "not like a textbook" (^/), and an index 
"with a catchy title" (4^). Obviously, what the judges mean is 
this: "Use a little strategy. Put a book together so it looks 
readable. Advertise to the prospective reader what he will find 
in the book. And you challenge him to read it." Although other 

TABLE VIII 

FACTORS RELATED TO GENERAL FEATURES OF ORGANIZATION 

RANKED OP GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO 

READABILITY BY EACH GROUP OF JUDGES 



Factors Ranked in Highest One- 
Fourth of 37 Factors 



ia Descriptive chapter headings 

4# Table of contents 

la Striking tide of book 

3f Paragraph divisions not like 

a textbook 
4^ Index with catchy title 



Factors Ranked in Lowest One- 
Fourth of 37 Factors 



4/ Index 



judges than librarians and publishers favor interesting subheads 
in bold-faced type, these two groups consider the factor of little 
importance. Apparently, they fear that the practice may tend 
to produce a textbookish product which does not look readable 
to the adult of limited reading ability. 

What to do with references in a readable book seems to be 
a question open to disagreement (Tables LXXV-LXXVII). 
Opinion is more diversified with respect to this aspect of organi- 
zation than to any other. The weight of opinion among librari- 
ans is toward references following the text. Publishers are about 
equally divided on placing references in the text proper or in 
the appendix, while the third group of judges comes out quite 
uniformly for placing them in the text proper. One judge quali- 
fied his first recommendation by a second that there be "few 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 



45 



references. 7 ' It is clear that evidence is needed to prove whether 
the placement of references influences readability for particular 
kinds of readers. 

THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF GENERAL 
ASPECTS OF ORGANIZATION 

Table IX and Figure 5 show that all judges hold reference 
guides as an important aspect of organization. Librarians and 
publishers assign to this item a slightly higher mean value than to 

TABLE IX 

SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT CONCERNING THE RELATIVE INFLUENCE ON READABILITY 
OF GENERAL ASPECTS OF ORGANIZATION 



GENERAL ASPECT 


ALL PERSONS 


LIBRARIANS 


PUBLISHERS 


OTHERS INTER- 
ESTED IN ADULT 
EDUCATION 


M. 


tr 


Range 


M. 


a 


Range 


M. 


tr 


Range 


M. 


tr 


Range 


I. Title of book 


28 25 
20.82 
21.80 
29.12 


16.31 
8.85 
11.31 
16.24 


80-0 
$0-7 
SO-o 
75-0 


27-50 
18.37 
20.47 
33.67 


13-77 
7.03 
12.08 
18.47 


50-0 
30-10 
50-0 

75-10 


25-33 
21.58 
24.08 
29.00 


13.60 
7 .8l 
9.63 
IO.S3 


50-0 
45-H 
40-10 
42-5 


27.68 

24-45 
23.00 
24.86 


17.74 
10.36 
11.03 
14.10 


75-5 
50-8 
50-10 
65-5 


2. Chapter divisions 


3 Paragraph divisions 


4. Reference guides 





other aspects. Other persons interested in adult education rank 
the title of a book of considerably greater importance than refer- 
ence guides. Lack of agreement within separate groups is indicat- 
ed by the wide range of value and the large standard deviations 
of the different means. Disagreement is also marked in the case 
of titles of books which librarians and publishers evaluate any- 
where from zero to 50 per cent, and other persons, from 5 to 75 
per cent. Probably, it is more significant that the majority of 
all judges agree upon a striking title as a mark of a readable 
book than that individual evaluation of this aspect varies from 
zero to 75 per cent. 

OBTAINING REACTIONS FROM LIBRARY READERS 

The next step in this inquiry has aimed to obtain reactions 
from readers in libraries concerning what makes a particular 
book readable. About forty readers' advisers in as many large 



4 6 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



libraries of the country co-operated. Each was requested to ob- 
tain through personal conferences with adult patrons, preferably 
those of average or low reading achievement, as complete a 
statement as possible of the factors they, believe make for read- 
ability of a book recently read. Two other types of information 
were desired: personal data concerning the reader, such as age, 
sex, occupation, last grade in school, kind of material usually 
read, and time devoted to reading per day; and the adviser's 
own statement of the book's readable qualities. 



100 




Chapter 
divisions 



Paragraph 
divisions 



Reference 
guides 



Title of book 

FIG. 5. An evaluation of general aspects of organization 



For obtaining the reader's reaction to a book, the following 
questions were suggested: 

I. Why did you read this book? 
a. How well did you like it? 

3. Why did you like (or not like) the book? 

4. Was the book readable; that is, was it easy and pleasant to read, and did it 
bring interest and satisfaction? 

5. What was there about the book which made it readable for you; that is, 
that made it easy and pleasant to read? 

Statements received from the readers in answer to these 
questions were interpreted so far as possible in terms of the 
classified list used previously. Comparisons were then drawn 
between the reader's reaction to a particular book and that of 
the readers' adviser to the same book. This was done for the 
purpose of determining similarities and differences of opinion 
relative to factors of readability found. Illustrations of these 
similarities and differences will be given later. 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 47 

THE KIND OF READERS REPORTING 

Reports from 170 readers' advisers represented the opinion 
of as many readers, 74 men and 96 women. Their ages ranged 
from fifteen years for one reader to eighty years for another. 
The mean age was 31.4 years. Thirty- four of the readers were 
unemployed, the remainder reporting a total of 56 different oc- 
cupations. Included in this number were 28 home-makers, 12 
stenographers, 8 students, 5 housemaids, and 5 secretaries. The 
rest were scattered singly or in groups of two to four in other 
occupations. Educational background, as measured by the last 
grade attended in school, ranged from third grade to post-gradu- 
ate in college. One person reported each extreme. Twenty-eight 
of the readers claimed some education beyond high school. The 
mean last year attended by the 156 readers who gave this infor- 
mation was 10.6, representing an educational background some- 
what beyond what was most desired for the inquiry. 

The type of reading usually done by the 170 readers was clas- 
sified into 44 categories, several individuals reporting that they 
were accustomed to read a variety of content. It was evident 
from the classified list that the reading tastes and habits of these 
readers were widely diversified. Fifty-two persons reported they 
read fiction most commonly; 29 reported popular non-fiction; 
26, biography; 24, all kinds of reading; and 18, travel. The fol- 
lowing kinds of material were reported as the usual choice of one 
reader each: science, arts, engineering, short stories, useful arts, 
mechanics, memoirs, adult education, inspirational books, and 
radical books on religion and capitalism. 

The amount of time devoted to reading per day was fre- 
quently indicated by such terms as "little," "constantly/' "ir- 
regular," "over an hour," and "evenings." Twenty-seven read- 
ers claimed one hour of reading per day and a similar number, 
two hours. Eleven averaged between two and three hours daily, 
and 8, three hours. Various other amounts were reported up to 
eight hours, which was recorded by one reader. The wide di- 
versity in this information may have been due in part to differ- 
ent reading habits, but probably much of it was due to diffi- 



48 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

culty in estimating the amount of time usually devoted to 
reading. 

It is obvious from these data that we have obtained no syn- 
thetic portrait of the reader of limited reading ability. We have 
made no attempt, therefore, to present the opinions of this type 
of reader. Neither have we generalized as to the factors which 
different sorts of readers believe contribute to readability for 
different sorts of reading, as we had hoped. The number of 
readers proved too small to give a representative sampling of 
any one class. What we have attempted is, first, to determine 
the factors most frequently mentioned by all readers, regardless 
of age, sex, educational background, and reading habits; and, 
second, to compare them with the factors listed by the readers' 
advisers for the same books. The extent to which the readers 
and their advisers attributed readability of the books reported 
to the same or different factors will be shown in succeeding para- 
graphs. 

AN ANALYSIS OF READERS* REACTIONS 

The number of different books reported was 153. Seventeen 
were read by more than one reader, The Good Earth having been 
read by six persons. Some errors in interpretation doubtless oc- 
curred for the reason that the particular factor to which refer- 
ence was made was occasionally vague. For example, a colored 
man, a freight-handler, who had left school in the fourth grade, 
declared that Robinson Crusoe was the best book he had ever 
read, because "the words were so you could read right along." 
Whether he meant that the words are short, or easy, or familiar, 
or non-technical, or informal, or colloquial could only be implied 
from a knowledge of the book. Again, a housekeeper who had 
attended school only to the sixth grade liked The Log Cabin Lady 
so well that she read the book three times. She considered it 
readable because "it follows along after you get started without 
a break." This statement might be interpreted to mean that 
the paragraphs are "progressively continuous," or that the style 
of presentation is "rapid" or "easy and fluent," or that the ap- 
peal is "within the reader's scale." When the meaning of a 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 49 

statement could not be determined with some definiteness from 
a reader's total reaction to the book it was omitted from classi- 
fication. 

Other persons gave clear reasons for considering a particular 
book readable. A college graduate, a field director of boy 
scouts, who is especially interested in non-fiction, found The 
Epic of America very readable. He attributed its readability to 
the following factors: large easy type, good paragraphing, com- 
fortable size, clear-cut presentation, vivid introduction, pro- 
logue, and fair interpretation of people and events. Such factors 
could be readily classified. 

When the opinions of all 170 readers had been interpreted 
and tabulated, it was found that factors pertaining to style had 
been mentioned 193 times. Factors of content ranked second 
with 151 mentions; format, third, with 78; and factors of or- 
ganization, last, with a total of 8 mentions. A distribution of the 
114 different factors mentioned by the readers showed that of 
the 28 which were most frequently mentioned as contributing 
to the readability of a particular book, 13 are aspects of style, 
9 of content, and 6 of format. 

Many of these factors which are listed in Table X were trans- 
lated from such personal statements as: "I was interested in 
finding out how to cure sleeplessness" (IV, 2/) 3 "I always want 
to read about India" (IV, la), "I learned how to speak correct- 
ly" (IV, 2p), and "I felt as though the author meant what he 
wrote" (III, 5J-). Statements of this sort were noticeably pre- 
dominant among readers of less than average schooling and of 
somewhat mediocre reading tastes. They probably do not mean 
that factors of format and organization exercise no influence on 
readability, but, rather, that the influence, though probably 
less than that of style and content, is so subtle that the reader is 
conscious only of interesting content written in a manner he 
can understand. There is need for investigation to determine 
the extent to which attractive format creates interest in books 
and adds to readability for different classes of readers. 

Another frequent type of comment, and one which defied 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



precise classification, was that a particular book was considered 
"easy/ 7 "easy to read/' "easy to understand," or "not very 
hard." In some cases, the readers* adviser clarified such state- 

TABLE X 

FACTORS MENTIONED WITH GREATEST FREQUENCY BY READERS AND READERS' 
ADVISERS IN COMMENTS REGARDING THE READABILITY OP THE SAME BOOKS 



Factors Ranked in Highest One-Fourth 
of 114 Factors by Readers 



Factors Ranked in Highest One-Fourth 
of 104 Factors by Readers* Advisers 



IV, ij Interesting subject matter 
IV, la Theme what people want to 

read about 
*IV, 10 Real or ideal life experience 

III, *] a Simple style 

IV, 2p Informational material 
*III, jk Easy, fluent style 

IV, ic Familiar content 

*I, a* Brief book 

*I, 40 Clear, legible type 

*I, 44 Large type 
*III, 7^ Vivid, colorful style 

*I, ^q Good print 
*III, 7,g Entertaining style 
III, ic Easy vocabulary 
III, ik Non-technical vocabulary 

III, 5| Sincere attitude of author 

IV, ii Theme people and personalities 
*IV, i/ Theme romance and action 

IV, 2/ Helpful subject matter 
IV, 2r Satisfying subject matter 
III, ij Common, familiar vocabulary 
*III, yd Lucid, clear style 
III, 7? Natural style 
III, 8 Omission of nonessentials 
*I, ig Book of comfortable size 
*I, 9; Appropriate illustrations 
III, 6b Descriptive style 
III, 7* Direct style 



*I, 4^ Good print 

*I, 40 Clear, legible type 

*I, ig Book of comfortable size 

I, i/ Light-weight book 
*l y i& Brief book 
*I, 40 Large type 

I, la Small book 
II, 2<z Descriptive chapter headings 

III, ig Simple words 
*III, jk Easy, fluent style 

IV, i Theme human interest 
*IV, 10 Real or ideal life experience 

I, 83 Attractive binding 
I, 9/fc Attractive illustrations 
*III, 7| Entertaining style 
III, jp Informal style 
I, i if Book of average size 
I, 6a Wide, liberal margins 
*III, 7^ Vivid, colorful style 
III, jj Simple style 
*IV, i/ Romance and action 
I, 7^ Attractive page 
*I, $j Appropriate illustrations 
*III, jd Lucid, clear style 
III, le Simple sentences 
III, Sf Conversation 



* Factor mentioned by both readers and readers* advisers. 

ments by attributing the readability of the book to "short sen- 
tences/' "lack of technical words/' "use of first person singu- 
lar/' or "simple language" qualities that presumably relate 
to ease of reading and ease of understanding. In other cases, 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 51 

the readers' adviser ascribed none of the readability of the book 
to elements that may promote ease. 

From the records of readers' advisers it was found that fac- 
tors of format were mentioned 223 times; those of style, 162 
times; of content, 65 times; and of organization, 46 times. Dif- 
ferent factors numbered 104, their frequency of mention ranging 
between 37 and i . For the sake of convenience in comparison, 
the most frequently mentioned factors of readability obtained 
from the advisers' reports are also listed in Table X. It may be 
noted that of these 26 factors, 13 pertain to format, 9 to style, 3 
to content, and i to organization, in the same order as the total 
number of mentions. Factors mentioned both by readers and 
readers' advisers are indicated in the table by asterisks. 

That readers' advisers should most often attribute the reada- 
bility or non-readability of 153 books to factors of format is 
perplexing, when one recalls that in the earlier part of the in- 
quiry librarians and advisers rank this category third in value 
among the four major categories. Furthermore, data presented 
in Table VII show that the ranking has been done with con- 
siderable agreement. Several assumptions may be made. One 
is that factors of format are actually most influential for reada- 
bility or non-readability of the particular books read, despite 
the fact that readers themselves tend to minimize the effect of 
format. 

A more plausible assumption is that in the earlier inquiry 
readers' advisers were judging readability in general. Here they 
are judging the readability of a specific book, which may or may 
not be the same thing. It may be easier to talk about interesting 
content, pleasing style, and other more or less subjective quali- 
ties than it is to label them definitely. On the other hand, good 
print, large type, light weight, brevity, and comfortable size are 
relatively constant and objective for any one judge, and conse- 
quently more freely mentioned in evaluating a particular book. 

The third assumption, and one on which some evidence is 
available, is that readers' advisers may not have read some of 
the books. Hence, they felt unqualified to comment on factors 



52 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

of content and style, confining their evaluation, instead, to fac- 
tors of format, which can be observed with little trouble, yet 
with considerable accuracy. Evidence to support this assump- 
tion was found in the reports of six books which readers' ad- 
visers said they knew only from handling, not from reading. Six 
other books were given no evaluation, presumably because they 
were quite unfamiliar to the readers' advisers. It seems prob- 
able that all three of these assumptions may explain in part the 
difference in emphasis noted between the general evaluation of 
readability made by the readers' advisers and their specific eval- 
uation of particular books. 

The twelve factors most frequently mentioned by both read- 
ers and readers' advisers may be noted in Table X. In ascribing 
readability to format, both groups most frequently state that 
the book is of comfortable size (I, ig), is brief (I, 2#), with large 
(I, 4#) clear, legible (I, 40) type, good print (I, 4^), and appro- 
priate illustrations (I, gf). The style of a readable book is gen- 
erally vivid and colorful (III, 7^), lucid and clear (III, jd), easy 
and fluent (III, 7&), and entertaining (III> Jg) ; and its content 
is based on real or ideal life-experience (IV, 10), or on romance 
and action (IV, i/). 

In order to show concretely the similarities and differences 
found between reactions of the reader and of the readers* ad- 
viser to the same book, typical statements are cited in the out- 
line on pages 53 and 54. They show the marked tendency of the 
readers* adviser to point out desirable factors of format and of 
the reader to emphasize style and content. All statements are 
quoted exactly from the reports of the two groups. 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 



53 



TYPICAL REACTIONS OF READERS AND READERS' ADVISERS 
TO THE SAME BOOK 



BOOK 

Jackson, J. A., 
and Salisbury, 
Helen, Outwitting 
Our Nerves 



Swift, Psychology 
and the Day's 
Work 



Fernald, Expres- 
sive English 



READER 



REACTION or READER 



grade education. 
Reads novels 
usually. 



Female 27 yrs. It had a whole chapter 
Mother. Eighth- on being unable to 
sleep, and other things 
I needed. I could find 
anything I wanted in the 
book after I read it. So 
many times I wanted 
to show my husband 
something and I could 
turn to it in a second 
because everything im- 
portant in it was 
brought out. 



Male 46 yrs. 
Unemployed. 
Eighth grade. 
Reads psychol- 
ogy, religion, etc. 



Male 35 yrs. 
Carpenter. 
Sixth grade. 
Reads newspa- 
pers and maga- 



Yes, the book was 
readable. I don't know 
why. 



It was easy to under- 
stand. Well expressed, 
Good print. Light to 
hold (to read on the 
cars). 



REACTION OF 
READERS' ADVISER 

Medium-sized, light, 
good print. Well or- 
ganized. Each chapter 
has several headings of 
different kinds. Para- 
graphs are emphasized 
by black ink sugges- 
tions. Most of the 
chapters are summa- 
rized. There is a glos- 
sary, a bibliography, 
and an index. The con- 
tent satisfies. 

Non-technical, brief 
presentation of the re- 
lation of psychology to 
everyday life. Good 
print. Handy size. 
Journalistic style. 

Information given In 
an interesting manner. 
Many apt examples. 
Convenient size. Clear 
print. 



Hugo, Le s Misera- Male 20 yrs. 

ble$ t Adapted by Unemployed. 

Ettie Lee Fourth grade. 

Reads newspa- 
pers. 



Gide, First Prin- 
ciples of Political 
Economy 



It was exciting and Short sentences. Sim- 
true. It was not too pie language. A great 
long and the print was deal of action, 
good. 



Male 35 yrs. 
Unemployed. 
Sixth grade. 
Reads some 
newspapers and 
the Pathfinder. 



I couldn't understand 
it. Too many big 
words. I couldn't "fig- 
ger out" what he was 
talking about. He used 
so many big words that 
I never seen. I tried to 
use the kid's dictionary 
but by the time I'd 
hunted up the words 
I'd clean forgot what 
he was talking about. 



Admirable in format, 
etc. Vocabulary too 
difficult for the level of 
the subject matter. 
Here is a case that 
might pay to translate 
into "Brief English." 
Subject matter is too 
elementary for those 
who can read it readily, 
on account of vocabu- 
lary. 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



TYPICAL REACTIONS OF READERS AND READERS' ADVISERS 
TO THE SAME BOOK Continued 



BOOK. 

Humphrey, Story 
of Mans Mind 



READER 

Female 40 yrs. 
Social worker. 
H.S. graduate. 
Reads biogra- 
phy and social 
subjects. 



REACTION OF READER 

Simply written so that 
I could understand it. 
Made me want to go 
further in the subject. 
Good format. Liked 
the diagrams. Style 
was readable. It re- 
ferred to things I al- 
ready knew about, not 
over my head. 



REACTION OF 
READERS' ADVISER 

Form of book looks 
easy. It is simply writ- 
ten without technical 
vocabulary. Has sim- 
ple illustrations and al- 
lusions to everyday 
things. 



Defoe, Ro&inson 
Crusoe 



Male. Colored Crusoe was like me, Written in first person 
30 yrs. Freight- he made the best of singular. Short chap- 
handler. Fourth everything. The words ~~ 

were so you could read 

right along. 



grade. Reads 
everything that 
will "learn him 
something." 



ters. Proceeds without 
a break. Content of 
primitive living, strug- 
gle for conquest, rich 
use of ingenuity. Lack 
of technical words. 
Short sentences. Good- 
sized print. Clear il- 
lustrations. Paragraph 
divisions. Subheads. 

Halliburton, Female 26 yrs. Made things seem real. Author's enthusiastic 

Royal Road to Ro- Knitter in a ho- Easy to read. Sim- manner. Attractive 

mance sierymill. ply written. Easy to size and general or- 

Eighth grade. understand. ganization. 

Reads travel 

books. 

SUMMARY OF INQUIRY RELATIVE TO READABILITY 

The evident similarity of opinion among the judges who eval- 
uated the classified factors proves that publishers, librarians, 
and others are more united in their thinking about the factors 
which may influence readability than perhaps they themselves 
realize. It has been shown that groups interested in the prob- 
lem can analyze readability as a general quality, and that 
they can do so with more than a fair degree of consistency. 
Obviously, mere agreement of opinion does not establish that 
opinion as truth. However, since many opinions compiled in 
this inquiry are based upon careful observations of reading in- 



WHAT IS A READABLE BOOK? 55 

terests, habits, and demands of adults, it is highly probable that 
those agreed to by a majority of judges are symptomatic of the 
truth as it pertains to factors which make a book readable for 
readers of limited ability. 

The lack of agreement among individual judges is quite as 
notable as the presence of agreement among groups of judges. 
Wide diversity of opinion regarding the relative influence of 
some general aspects is shown by a range in value from 10 to 80 
per cent. For specific factors, the variability in judgment ranges 
in several cases from double checks, indicative of special signifi- 
cance, to no check, implying zero significance. We can no more 
conclude that one is right and the other wrong than we can con- 
clude that general agreement among the judges establishes a 
factor as important or unimportant for readability. In both 
cases we need supporting evidence to determine how a partic- 
ular factor contributes generally to the readability of a certain ' 
kind of material for a certain class of reader. 

Upon the question of what factors actually influence reada- 
bility and of what is their relative importance in determining 
the readability of a book, this inquiry can do little more than 
suggest an answer. Its findings rather offer a challenge to at- 
tempt to discover whether factors generally believed to influ- 
ence readability really do so. For example, does provision for 
certain aspects of format, such as average size and light weight 
of a book; black ink; dull-surfaced paper; clear, legible, attrac- 
tive type; captioned illustrations; and maps and diagrams con- 
tribute to readability, as the judges believe? If so, what size of 
type is clear, legible, and attractive? Is size of less significance 
than leading or interlineage? Do captioned illustrations pro- 
mote readability? If so, what kind is more effective, the car- 
toon-type as suggested by eleven judges or photographs as sug- 
gested by one judge? 

Innumerable other questions arise from an examination of 
the data obtained from the inquiry questions that can be an- 
swered only by experimentation with the reader for whom 
readable materials are apparently needed. Subjective testi- 



56 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

mony of readers themselves regarding what makes a particular 
book readable or non-readable is not enough. Evidence of an 
objective sort should be sought in order to reveal factors of 
which the reader may be quite unconscious. 

If the investigation is to produce practical outcomes, it must 
be resolved into major aspects. These must then be analyzed 
into a series of related problems for detailed study. Research 
directed toward the discovery of facts pertaining to format and 
organization should aim to give a list of desirable practices that 
will guarantee books that look readable, especially for adults of 
limited education. Conrad's investigation of reading material 
for native adult illiterates and near-illiterates is a promising 
beginning. The study of reading content as attacked by Waples 
and Tyler furnishes data by means of which librarians, writers, 
and publishers may determine what different groups of adults 
want to read about. From these data, too, publishers and writ- 
ers may be guided in their further efforts to prepare informa- 
tional material that different classes of readers will read if the 
opportunity allows. 

The fourth aspect of readability, and one which both judges 
and readers agree is of major importance, is concerned with the 
style of expression and presentation of material by means of 
which content is made "easy and pleasant" for different classes 
to read. It is with this aspect that we are concerned in the re- 
maining chapters of our report. We have anticipated that a 
thoroughgoing investigation of problems related to ease or diffi- 
culty should ultimately supply needed standards for making 
vocabulary, sentences, and paragraphs easy to read. It should 
also discover the methods of presentation that tend to insure 
pleasant and satisfying reading. When each aspect of readabili- 
ty has been defined precisely for different readers, it seems rea- 
sonable to believe that all the facts may be synthesized and 
utilized in the production of more books which look readable 
from the point of view of format and organization, and which 
are readable if their content and style make them easy and 
pleasant to read. 



CHAPTER III 
HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 

A WORDING to the plan outlined in chapter i, only a 
single aspect of readability has been studied intensively 
for this initial report of what makes a book readable. 
That aspect is ease or difficulty of materials comprising the gen- 
eral reading of adults. Our primary concern is to discover the 
elements inherent in such materials which influence ease or 
difficulty. 

It must be recognized at the outset, however, that difficulty 
is a relative quality and that it can be defined only in terms of a 
reader's comprehension. Material is easy for one reader because 
he can understand it, whereas it is difficult for another reader 
because he cannot understand it. This phenomenon raises two 
practical questions: For what class is it most important to iden- 
tify elements of difficulty? And, How well are readers of that 
class able to read the kind of materials in which elements of 
difficulty need to be defined? Inasmuch as it is the reader of 
limited ability who finds most of the material now written for 
adults too difficult, it is for this class of reader that we have 
aimed to identify elements which influence difficulty. 

The purpose of this chapter is, first, to show how well repre- 
sentative groups of adults are able to read, and, second, to de- 
fine more precisely who are readers of limited ability. In ac- 
complishing these purposes, it was recognized that certain ob- 
jective measuring instruments are essential to an accurate de- 
termination of reading ability. A representative sampling of the 
adult population is also necessary in order that evidence con- 
cerning how well adults read may be as valid as possible. A 
description of the testing instruments used, together with a 
characterization of the groups tested, is presented in the sec- 
tions that follow. 

57 



58 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

Since testing conditions vary widely in different situations, 
it was impossible to measure the ability of all groups by all the 
testing devices used in the study. For example, some groups 
were tested for ability to comprehend the content of general 
magazines, books, and newspapers commonly read by adults. 
Others were tested for speed and accuracy of oral reading. All 
groups were tested for ability in silent reading as expressed in 
terms of grade norms. In view of these variations, the evidence 
concerning reading ability for all groups could not be considered 
collectively. Instead, it has been compiled and presented in a 
manner that provides the most satisfactory basis for interpret- 
ing facts obtained from single tests. How well different classes 
of adults read general material is shown first. Their ability in si- 
lent reading is revealed next in terms of grade norms. Their 
speed and accuracy of oral reading is presented last. 

HOW TO MEASURE COMPREHENSION OF GENERAL 
READING MATERIAL 

An examination of existing tests in reading showed that none 
was available for measuring comprehension of general reading 
materials such as are found in books, magazines, and newspa- 
pers. For this reason the preliminary task of constructing such 
a test was undertaken. The type constructed was determined in 
the light of the theory generally accepted regarding the nature 
of comprehension. That comprehension is not a single unitary 
process is commonly conceded. It is, rather, a blending of many 
processes whose totality represents understanding. But com- 
prehension has not been resolved satisfactorily into its compo- 
nent processes. Consequently, first one and then another lias 
been isolated and taken as a measure of comprehension. 

In selecting aspects of comprehension to use in constructing 
reading tests, we have made two assumptions. The first is that 
ability to grasp the essential meaning of a selection in the form 
of a general impression is the outcome most frequently demand- 
ed of adults in reading general material. The second is that a 
large amount of reading is done in order to gain specific infer- 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 59 

mation contained in the selection. Furthermore, since ability 
to grasp the essential meaning seems to depend in a degree upon 
ability to react satisfactorily to specific elements contained in 
the selection, it is assumed that any technique devised to meas- 
ure the first outcome will indirectly measure the second. 

THE ADULT READING TEST 

The construction of the adult reading test used in measuring 
comprehension of general materials is described in detail in 
Appendix C. The test consists of two forms printed in separate 
booklets. Form I contains a series of twenty-four unmutilated 
paragraphs of fiction selected from magazines, books, and news- 
papers. Form i contains a similar number of paragraphs of non- 
fiction selected from the same general source. An attempt was 
made in all cases to choose complete units of thought, the sense 
of which could be given in single summary statements. In 
order to increase the reliability of the measure of comprehen- 
sion, two reactions were required. The first was the identification 
of the best summary in a series of five statements relating to the 
paragraph. The second was the recognition of a detail not found 
in the paragraph. Reactions were indicated in the manner pre- 
scribed by the following passage, quoted from the set of direc- 
tions accompanying the tests: 

You are to read each paragraph carefully. Then read the five sentences 
below the paragraph. Put a CHECK MARK (V) before the sentence that tells 
best what the paragraph said. One of the five sentences tells something that 
is wrong or that is not in the paragraph. Mark that sentence with a ZERO (o). 
Do not mark the other three sentences. 

The nature of the test is apparent from the following sample 
paragraph taken from the non-fiction test, designated as 
Form 2. 

SAMPLE PARAGRAPH 

For nine years I have watched, during the spring and summer months, a 
nighthawk that lives in the daytime on a big limb near the end of my garden. 
He can usually be found at the same spot from April to September. It may be 
that a member of a second or third generation now lives there; but it is truly 
a family tree. I often wonder why a bird becomes attached to one place, 



60 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

unless it is because it is contented there. Explain it as you will, contentment 
results from peace of heart, and the home-loving heart is usually at peace. 

PARAGRAPH SUMMARY 

i. *' . . Ever since the nighthawk built his nest in my garden he has lived 
there all the year round. 

2. The tree where the nighthawk lives is truly a family tree. 

3. The nighthawk can usually be found on the same limb during spring 

and summer. 

4. The nighthawk must be contented in my garden for he has lived 

there from April to September for nine years. 

5. l! The same nighthawk or perhaps a member of his family has lived 

in my garden during spring and summer for nine years. 

The highest possible score on the fiction test, Form i, is 92.2; 
and on the non-fiction, Form 2, 91.4. Test scores attained on the 
two forms by an individual or by a group are therefore com- 
parable. 1 

From the records secured by the use of these test-forms, sig- 
nificant facts were obtained concerning the relative ease or diffi- 
culty of fiction and non-fiction for general adult readers. Some 
evidence was secured also with respect to the type of material 
that adults read and interpret most readily. 

SECURING GROUPS FOR TESTING 

In presuming to answer the question of how well adults read, 
we had no alternative but to test a limited number of individuals 
and then to generalize on the results, applying them to the 
larger population of adults in general. Although it is theo- 
retically desirable to select a sampling in such a way that the 
cases will represent fairly all portions of the population, it 
is practically impossible to do so. 

The obstacles to be met in a program designed to measure 
adult abilities are many. In the first place, suitable testing op- 
portunities are not readily available. At the time this study was 
carried on, the most favorable conditions were found in evening 

* The method of scoring the test, together with an evaluation of the test for relia- 
bility and validity, is given in Appendix C. 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 61 

schools where students possessed a variety of abilities and stages 
of educational progress. Only occasional groups of adults at- 
tended day school before the organization of classes for emer- 
gency relief. Under ordinary circumstances, such groups are 
smaller in number and less regular in attendance than are those 
in evening schools. Allowance must be made, therefore, for con- 
siderable loss in time and materials if the testing program ex- 
tends beyond one day. For example, a day-school group in Chi- 
cago was tested on two different days, with the result that al- 
though more than 40 adults took Form I of the Adult Reading 
Test and a similar number took Form 2 three days later, only 
12 persons were common to both groups and consequently 
tested by both forms. 

Other organized groups may be found in evening classes con- 
ducted by religious organizations or in classes provided for in- 
mates of penal institutions. In the latter case, especially, stu- 
dents tend to be notably retarded and to possess obvious read- 
ing deficiencies. This is due largely to the fact that for the most 
part prison schools have attempted to do little more than to 
correct glaring educational deficiencies. 

Groups classified at the secondary-school and college levels 
are usually available, and in the present study they proved of 
great value. The inclusion of students at the former level 
seems warranted, inasmuch as a large percentage of our popu^ 
lation who enter high school do not continue their education 
farther. It seems reasonable to assume, therefore, that the read^ 
ing achievement of the present generation of high-school pupils 
may indicate roughly how well some adults will read a decade, 
or two hence. Unless they engage in adult educational activities' 
in later years, it is probable that their present reading achieve- 
ment is higher than it will be in the future. 

One may question the inclusion of college groups in a testing" 
program which is designed to discover readers of limited ability. 
During the past several years, however, findings have been 
obtained which show conclusively that college students not only 
differ widely in reading achievement but that many of them ex- 



62 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

hibit surprisingly immature and deficient reading habits. It 
seems pretty clear that too much cannot be taken for granted 
concerning the ability of college students to read either their 
required course assignments or general adult books and periodi- 
cals. By restricting the college groups tested to those whose 
fading opportunities had been relatively meager, it seemed 
probable that some would manifest limited ability. 

Since parent-teacher organizations are usually of a hetero- 
geneous character, they furnish desirable subjects for testing a 
range of abilities, provided that they can be convinced the 
project is worth while, or if a trade in benefits can somehow be 
arranged. In the present study both conditions were met satis- 
factorily. 

A second obstacle to testing adults lies in the hesitance and 
apprehension with which they approach a test of their abilities. 
This reaction is especially characteristic of adults whose edu- 
cation has been neglected or has been obtained in a language 
other than the one used in the test. It is obviously essential 
that harmonious relations be established between the adminis- 
trator and test subjects if results are to be reliable. Various 
methods were used to secure confidence and consistent effort. 
For example, members of parent-teacher groups were fearful of 
exposing reading deficiencies. They were allowed to draw num- 
bers by which to designate their tests. Retarded adults were 
constantly encouraged and were frequently reassured that ina- 
bility to answer a test item or to finish a test was attended by 
no serious consequence. This was done to promote confidence 
and to prevent guessing, which would tend to invalidate the 
findings. A knowledge of the real purpose of the tests probably 
obviated the desire to finish at any cost and promoted honest 
effort* 

WHAT GROUPS WERE TESTED? 

Table XI presents the name, geographical location, approxi- 
mate grade-placement or last grade attended in school, and size 
of the various groups tested by the adult test. They are ar- 
ranged into six somewhat homogeneous classes with respect to 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 



educational advancement. The first two represented adults who 
were continuing their education at the elementary level. The 
South Carolina group included workers in textile mills whose 
early schooling had been neglected. The next three groups, 
made up of working men and women of limited education, rep- 

TABLE XI 

NAME, GRADE-PLACEMENT, GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION, AND SIZE OF GROUPS TESTED 



Name 


Grade- 
Placement 


Geographical 
Location 


Number 
of Cases 


Elementary classes 
Glenn Street School 


6 


Anderson S.C 


n 


Evening-school classes 
Englewood 


7, 8 


Chicago, 111. 


to 


J Sterling Morton 


7 8 


Cicero 111. 


2< 


Dante . . 


8 


Chicago, 111. 


*j 

12 


Junior high schools 
Berea Foundation 


7, 8, g 


Berea, Ky. 


QO 


A & M Model School 


780 


Tallahassee, Fla. 


4.8 


High schools 
Berea Academy 


Q, ICL II % 12 


Berea, Ky. 


Q7 


Berry High School Freshmen . 




Rome, Ga. 


44 


Rabun Gap-Nacoochee 


IO, II 


Rabun Gap, Ga. 


4.O 


A & M Model School 


ID, II, 12 


Tallahassee, Fla. 


T\ 


Berry High School, (Jr. and Sr.). . . 
Colleges 
Berea 


ii, ia 
Fr.,S.Jr.,Sr. 


Rome, Ga. 
Berea, Ky. 


14 
98 


Berry 


Fr., Jr. 


Rome, Ga. 


89 


Non-school group 
(parent-teacher associations) 
Hinsdale . . 




Hinsdale, 111. 


38 


Congress Park 




Congress Park, 111. 


45 










Total 






756 











resented the elementary classes found in the metropolitan eve- 
ning school. 

The two junior high-school groups and the five high-school 
groups listed in the table included young people and adults 
whose secondary education had been delayed. For example, Be- 
rea Foundation Junior High School aims to receive only "pupils 
from the mountain counties of Appalachian America who are 



64 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

sixteen years of age and over, who do not live within reasonable 
reach of adequate public schools, and who have not completed 
the first nine grades/' The junior and senior high-school groups 
of the Model School of the Agricultural and Mechanical Arts 
College, Tallahassee, Florida, enrols young people and under- 
privileged adults of the colored race, some of whom are prepar- 
ing for college. Berea Academy accepts students from a variety 
of contributing schools. At the time this study was begun, the 
entrance requirements were three units in the ninth grade. Some 
exceptions were made, however. Martha Berry High School 
offers educational opportunities to young people in the moun- 
tain districts of northern Georgia. Rabun Gap-Nacoochee 
School calls itself "a school that deals with mountain conditions 
as an economic problem." Whole families from the mountain 
regions of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina attend 
school there under a revolving farm plan, and pay for their 
cottages and tuition with their produce. Other students help 
the farmers two days a week during the school year and ten 
weeks during the summer to pay for tuition and board. 

The students of Berea College and Martha Berry College are 
largely mountain people. Entrance requirements to these col- 
leges are practically the same as those of the Southern Associa- 
tion of Colleges. 

The parent-teacher groups tested represented the better-edu- 
cated American adults not in school. Although the members of 
these organizations possessed a diversified educational back- 
ground, most of them had attended high school. Many were 
high-school graduates, some of whom had received more or less 
college training. 

Additional data regarding the personnel of the groups tested 
were recorded on the test blanks by the individuals them- 
selves. The validity of the data may therefore be open to ques- 
tion. The main facts obtained are summarized as follows: 

1. Of the 756 subjects whose reading ability was measured by 
the adult reading tests, 416 were women and 340 were men.' 

2. The age of the subjects ranged from 15 years to more than 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 65 

50 years, as shown in Table XII. The mean age was 22.7. The 
size of the standard deviation, 7.5, indicates that for approxi- 
mately the middle two- thirds of the subjects the age ranged be- 
tween 30.2 years (22.7+7.5) an< i J 5- 2 years (22.77.5). 

3. Educational training of the group, as measured by the last 
grade attended in day school, ranged from third grade, reported 
by one person, to above twelfth grade, reported by 246 persons 

TABLE XII 

NEAREST AGE IN YEARS OP 756 ADULT SUBJECTS 



Nearest Age in Years 


Number 


Per Cent 


1C 


124 


16.4.0 


20 


'JQI 


<I .72 


2< 


07 

IK 


1C. 21 


OQ 


18 


<.O^ 


o w 
or 


28 


1.7O 


4.0 


4.O 


C..2Q 


4< 


1C 


1.08 


CO 




O.C.T 


ro+ 


I 


O.IT 








Total 


7C6 


IOO.OO 









22. 7 .18 Mean 



(Table XIII). The mean was calculated at grade 11.01 by in- 
terpreting "beyond 12" as 14. If the data regarding previous 
schooling can be taken as reliable, it is evident that approxi- 
mately the middle two-thirds of the adults tested on the adult 
test ended their day schooling between grades 8.32 and 13.70. 

4. Of the 756 subjects who gave information concerning at- 
tendance at evening school, 660 reported from no attendance to 
three months, whereas three claimed a period between five and 
six years. The mean attendance was 3.1 months. 

5. Amount of time devoted to reading per day was admitted 
by the subjects as representing no more than a crude estimate. 
Two persons reported that they never engaged in any reading. 
At the opposite extreme of the scale were 73 persons whose 



66 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



average reading time exceeded three hours per day. The mean 
for the group was 1.56 hours. 

6. The occupational classification used in Table XIV was 
adapted from the report of the Bureau of the Census, and hence 
tends to obscure the diversity of occupation actually obtained 
from the records. An additional classification, "Educational/' 

TABLE XIII 

LAST GRADE ATTENDED IN DAY SCHOOL, AS REPORTED 
BY 756 ADULT SUBJECTS 



Last Grade Attended 
in Day School 


Number 


Per Cent 


o . 


I 


o n 




6 


O.7Q 



< 


IT 


i .72 


6 


1C 


i. 08 


7 


4.2 


c.c6 


8 


87 


II .<! 




QO 


II QO 




10 


62 


8.20 


II 


46 


6.08 


l<2 


1.4-4. 


IQ QC 


Beyond 12* 


246 


?2.<4 


Not reported .... * 


4 


O. <? 








Total 


756 


IOO OO 









1 1. oi .07 = Mean 



* Beyond a wai interpreted as 14 in computing the mean and stand** 
ard deviation. 

was added to include persons attending school. Although this 
group may seem disproportionately large, it is explained by the 
size of the under-privileged groups attending opportunity 
schools. Many adults were devoting a part of their time to a 
trade, yet preferred to class themselves students. 

As indicated by these descriptions, the various groups tested 
included important elements in the adult reading public, if not 
a representative sampling of it. It is clear that we have sampled 
a wide range of educational levels from elementary to college, 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 



But it is also clear that these groups tend to be selective rather 
than typical, that the individual members have educational in- 
terests of some sort or they would not be found in classrooms or 
in parent-teacher organizations, 

No attempt was made to discover facts concerning illiterates. 
Their needs are urgent, but they are not reading nor are they 

TABLE XIV 

OCCUPATIONS OF 756 ADULT SUBJECTS* 



Occupation 


Number 


Per Cent 


Agriculture 




O C7 


Building and construction 


2 


0.26 


Educational study 


<M< 


72 OQ 


Manufacturing and mechanical industries 


70 


c.i6 


Transportation and communication 


I 


O.I? 


Trade 


18 


2.78 


Public service 


4. 


O. <7 


Professional service 


20 


3.84 


Domestic and personal service 


8? 


II. CI 


Clerical occupations 


I? 


1.72 


Unskilled labor 


7 


O.4.O 


Not reported 


II 


I.4< 








Total 


7C6 


ICO. CO 









* Classification was adapted from the report of the United States Bureau of Census. 
See: The World Almanac and Book of Facts f of 1933. (New York: New York World Tele- 
gram, 1933), P- 4S6. 

generally simulating reading interests and habits. Only those 
persons were tested who had learned to read and were apparent- 
ly doing some reading. Although the findings obtained from 
such a testing program are not conclusive, they probably are 
suggestive of the level of reading ability possessed by the gen- 
eral public who reads adult magazines, books, and newspapers. 
Groups of adults tested by other types of tests will be de- 
scribed in later sections. 

HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ GENERAL 
READING MATERIALS? 

Table XV presents the distribution of scores on Forms I and 2 
of the Adult Reading Test made by 756 adults. It gives also the 



68 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



mean score and the standard deviation of the mean for each 
test. For Form i, the fiction test, the mean score was 53.86; for 
Form i y the non-fiction test, it was 47.86. The difference of 

TABLE XV 

NUMBER. AND PERCENTAGE OP 756 ADULTS MAKING VARIOUS SCORES ON THE 
TESTS OF FICTION AND NON-FICTION 



SCORES 


FICTION TEST 


NON-FICTION TEST 


No. 


Per Cent 


No. 


Per Cent 


SQ.QC Q4..QC 


2 
2 9 
70 

86 

57 

55 
64 

5* 
46 
41 
39 
41 
32 
3i 
ai 
27 

22 
19 

8 

8 

4 

a 


0.26 

3-84 
9.26 
11.38 

7-54 
7.28 

8.47 
6.88 
6.08 

5-42 
5.16 

5-4* 
4-23 
4.10 
2.78 

3-57 
2.91 
2.51 
i. 06 
i. 06 

-53 
0.26 


4 
21 
40 
61 
77 
59 
59 
66 

41 
56 
48 
5^ 
53 
43 

21 

13 
20 
12 

5 

2 
2 


o-53 
2.78 
5-29 
8.07 
10.19 
7.80 
7.80 
8.73 
5'4* 
7-41 

6.35 

6.88 
7.01 
5.69 
2.78 
1.72 
a. 65 

i-59 
0.66 
0,26 
0.26 


8/1 QC 80 QC 


7O QC 84. QC 


7/1 or 7Q.QC 


60 QC 7ji QC 


u y yj /^"yj 

6x QC 6Q QC 


CO QC 64.. QC 


fx QC CQ.QC 




T-y-io jT"7j 


To of 4/t,QC, . , 


74.. Q< 'JQ.QC 


2o Q< 74. QC 


0.4..QC aq.QC 


TO QC 2.A.QZ 


IA.QC IQ,Q< 


Q Q< I4..QC 


4.Q< 0.0< 


.OC- 4.QC 


A.Q/f .OC 


. Q C 4..OC 


I4.,Q< <J.O<. . . , 


10 QC IA QC 






2,4. QC IQ.QC 










2Q. QC-" 24.. Q< 






I 


0.13 








Mean53.86-59 
S.D. s 24.oi .42 


47.86.5i 

2I.24.37 



6.00 between the means is statistically significant, since it is 7.6 
times its probable error, ,79, The deduction to be drawn from 
this fact is that adult readers of the kind used in this study com- 
prehend fiction better than non-fiction, when comprehension is 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 69 

measured by the ability to get the general idea of the content. 
Controlling the construction of the tests prevented ascribing the 
difference in mean scores to a difference in difficulty of the tests 
themselves. Caution had been taken to select items for one test- 
form that would closely parallel those of the other when ranked 
by the occurrence of elements of expression believed to be indi- 
cators of difficulty. Furthermore, the highest possible scores on 
the two forms were approximately equal, being 92.2 for fiction 
and 91.4 for non-fiction. It seems reasonable to infer, therefore, 
that fiction is easier than non-fiction, though the two types of 
material contain a similar number of elements of difficulty. 

That adults varied more widely in their understanding of fic- 
tion than non-fiction is evident from the standard deviations of 
the two tests. A difference of 2.77 .56 between the units of 
variability, 24.01 and 21.24, is statistically significant. 

As yet, it has not been possible to determine the level of 
achievement which persons should attain on the Adult Reading 
Test. If we assume that they should make a score of 50 or more 
in other words, that they should comprehend at least half of 
what they read as measured by the tests used then it is clear 
that somewhat more than half the group, 60 per cent, inter- 
preted fiction satisfactorily. A slightly smaller number, 56 per 
cent of the group, interpreted non-fiction satisfactorily. If we 
assume that a score of 40 or more is satisfactory, then approxi- 
mately 30 per cent showed a deficiency in comprehension of 
general materials. 

Further comparison of the ability of adults to read the two 
types of material is afforded by Table XVI, which presents the 
mean scores on the fiction and non-fiction tests obtained by the 
twelve groups of adults. The mean scores on the fiction test 
varied from 19.95 for the A and M Junior High School group to 
75.40 for the parent-teacher group. According to these data, the 
latter group was on the average about four times as efficient in 
reading fiction as the former. The mean scores of at least four 
groups fell below what is probably the minimal desirable score 
of 40. 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



An examination of actual scores made by individual subjects 
shows that 89 per cent of the A and M Junior High School group 
made scores below 40, whereas only 2.4 per cent of the parent- 
teacher group scored as low as 40. Scores of the same two groups 
defined the range on the non-fiction tests. Again the A and M 
Junior High School group attained the lowest mean score, 19.85; 
and the parent-teacher group the highest mean score, 67.45* 

TABLE XVI 
SCORES FOR EACH OF TWELVE GROUPS ON THE ADULT READING TESTS 



Group 


Mean Score on 
Fiction Test 


Mean Score on 
Non-Fiction Test 


Parent-teachers 


7C.4O+ .8^ 


67.4.<4-I 12 


Berea Academy 


66.78i.o5 


c8.oo+ .84 


Berea College 


66 274- .Q< 


60 87 88 


Beny College 


64.60+1.30 


<7 8<i .10 


Rabun Gap 


62.204-1.90 


r?.qr-fi .72 


Betty High School* (Juniors and Seniors) 


cS.io 


CO OO 


Berry High School (Freshmen) 


4.6 . 77 -f 2 . 1 T 


^0. 72 4- 2. 1O 


A & M Senior High School 


40.26 + 1.43 


30.474-1 .02 


Evening schools 


70 . 62 + 1 . QO 


-3Q 2AI .A.6 


Berea Foundation 


T7.I7I .<7 


T7.OC+ 1 ,7O 


Glenn Street* 


^6.70 


28.70 


A & M Junior High School 


IQ.CX-tl .4.1 


19 85i 26 


Entire group 


ro 86 . <Q 


47 864* C2 






T/-""- 1 - O* 



* Probable errors not computed because of small number of cases. 

For six of the twelve groups, the average score fell below 40. 
That all groups tested were able to read fiction more effectively 
than non-fiction is shown further by Table XVI. In every case, 
the mean score obtained on Form I was higher than on Form i. 
A more concrete picture of how well adults read the two types 
of material is presented in Figure 6. Comparison can be made on 
the basis of three values: median, third quartile, and first quar- 
tile. The median marks the point above and below which half 
the scores fall. The third quartile designates the point in the 
distribution above which one-fourth and below which three- 
fourths of the scores fall. The first quartile indicates the point 



I 1 



v/s/x 



KXX/V 



_..,-, 

tV ///?"s/s_/x/s/ //////A 



3 

4) 
fl 



- 1 



I 


I 



1 

' I 

i 

= .1 






72 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

above which three-fourths and below which one-fourth of the 
scores fall. If the first and third quartile are widely separated, 
it is evident that there was a marked variability within a group. 
If, on the other hand, the quartiles are close together, it is plain 
that the scores within the group were less scattered. 

Certain tendencies are apparent from Figure 6. With but one 
exception, all groups made a higher median score on fiction than 
non-fiction. In all but one case, the third quartile of the former 
was conspicuously higher than that of the latter. A comparison 
of the inter-quartile range for the two tests supports the evi- 
dence indicated by the standard deviations in Table XV, name- 
ly, that the ability of the adults tested varied more in read- 
ing fiction than in reading non-fiction. There is some evidence 
that groups classified at higher educational levels read both 
types of material with greater understanding than groups classi- 
fied at lower levels, and that the spread of ability tends to be 
markedly less. That parent-teacher groups read with more un- 
derstanding and less variability is to be expected. Since they 
are non-school groups, it is probable that they read general 
reading-matter more than do groups who attend school. Fur- 
thermore, inasmuch as they volunteered to take the tests, one 
may assume that they represented the most able readers. Cir- 
cumstances prevented other groups from being as selective. 

In Table XVII we have compared ability to read fiction and 
non-fiction in terms of a single value, the coefficient of correla- 
tion, 2 If a particular group reads fiction and non-fiction equally 
well, as measured by the tests used, the correlation will be high 
and the coefficient will approach +i. If a group tends to read 
one type of material better than the other, the correlation is 
low and the coefficient will approach zero. 

The greatest agreement in reading fiction and non-fiction is 
shown in Table XVII by a coefficient of .779 for the evening- 
school groups. The least agreement is .481 for the A and M 

2 Statistical comparisons were made by Margaret D. Cleary, "Achievement in 
Reading of Selected Groups of Adults." Unpublished Master's thesis, Department 
of Education, University of Chicago, 1933, p* 84. 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 73 

Junior High School group. Even here, however, the correlation 
is significant. Comparisons between the correlations obtained 
for different groups are not warranted, for the reason that the 
groups are not comparable in age, race, educational level, or 
socio-economic background. The general conclusion to be drawn 
from this table is that the relationship between ability to read 
fiction and non-fiction is positive and significant, and in most 
cases fairly high. 

TABLE XVII 

COEFFICIENTS OF CORRELATION BETWEEN FORM i AND 
FORM 2 OF THE ADULT READING TEST 



Groups 


r P.E. 


Evening schools 


.770+ cm 


Berea Foundation 


.778+ 028 


Rabun Gap 


7T7 + .048 


Berry High School (Juniors and Seniors)* 


7OO 


Berry High School (Freshmen) 


.601+ oci 


Parent- teachers 


.666 4-. 041 


Berea College . ... 


66c+ 0^8 


A & M Senior High School 


, <o6H- cxi 


Glenn Street School* . 


O7 WJ - - W 3* 
.<67 


Berry College 


. <7Q~r- .OCO 


Berea Academy 


. <IQ .O<O 


A & M Junior High School 


.481 + .07^ 







* Probable errors not computed because of small number of cases. 

MEASURING THE READING ABILITY OF ADULTS IN 
TERMS OF GRADE NORMS 

The current interest in improving the reading habits of adults 
has led to numerous conjectures relative to the grade levels rep- 
resented by the reading ability of adults. In the previous sec- 
tions we have summarized important facts relative to the ability 
of adults to comprehend the content of general books, maga- 
zines, and newspapers. The most serious limitation to a thor- 
oughgoing interpretation of these facts is the lack of standards. 
What the various scores mean in relation to graded progress 
must be determined by more extensive experimentation. 



74 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

To supplement the data already presented, it was thought 
advisable to measure reading achievement in terms of grade 
norms. From these could be ascertained within certain limita- 
tions, first, what is the general grade level of adult reading 
ability; and, second, whether ability is markedly different 
among different classes of adult readers. 

In the absence of standardized adult tests to serve this pur- 
pose, it was necessary to utilize a general test which carries a 
wide range of grade norms. The one chosen was the Monroe 
Standardized Silent Reading Test. It consists of a series of 
short passages followed by questions or directions. In some 
cases the question is answered by drawing a line under the word 
representing the right answer. In other cases, the examinee is 
directed to write out the answer to a question in order to show 
his understanding of the item. The tests have been prepared to 
measure a wide range of reading achievement: Test I, for use 
in grades III, IV, and V; Test II, in grades VI, VII, and VIII; 
and Test III, in grades IX to XII, inclusive. The number of 
exercises answered correctly in a period of four or five minutes 
makes the score. The raw scores can be transmuted into "B" 
scores, ranging from 2.0 to 17.0+- They indicate the school 
grade in which pupils normally attain the equivalent raw scores. 

ADDITIONAL GROUPS TESTED 

In addition to the 756 adults comprising the groups shown in 
Table XI, certain other groups were given the Monroe test. 
They are listed in Table XVIII. These groups made a total of 
1,690 adults whose achievement in silent reading was deter- 
mined in grade norms. Probably the most important and un- 
doubtedly the most representative group numbered 151 adults, 
of whom 75 lived in Coatsburg, Illinois, and 76 on adjacent 
farms. The village people included all men and women of the 
total population of 200 who were willing to co-operate. A ran- 
dom sampling was taken from the surrounding rural area. The 
mean age of the village group was 44,9 years, and of the rural 
group, 43.5 years. In each case, the mean grade last attended 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 



75 



in school was the eighth, the extremes ranging from third to 
twelfth in the village, and from fourth to twelfth on the farms. 
Occupational interests found in Coatsburg are representative of 
a typical village. In professional service were the doctor and 
banker; in trade, the merchant; in building and construction, 
the carpenter, painter, and paper-hanger; in mechanical indus- 
tries, the automobile mechanic; in agriculture, the farmers; and 
in the unskilled labor group, the majority of the citizens who 

TABLE XVIII 

ADDITIONAL GROUPS TESTED ON THE MONROE STANDARDIZED 
SILENT READING TEST 



Name 


Grade- 
Place- 
ment 


Geographical 
Location 


Number 


Cross-section of rural popula- 
tion 
i . Villagers 


8 


Coatsburg, 111. 


7< 


2. Farmers 


8 


Adjacent area 


76 


Sampling of negro population 
i* Indigent adults . . . . 


7 


Columbus, Ohio 


IQ.I 


2. Selected negro men 


8 


Chicago, 111. 


I2< 


3. Florida group 


o 


1 8 Florida cities 


<?V7 














Total 


Q^A 











work at what they can when they can. The reading ability of 
these persons is probably highly representative of the reading 
ability of similar populations in the Middle West. 

Because a large proportion of the negro population has had 
limited educational opportunities and engages in little reading, 
it seemed desirable to study the reading achievement of several 
groups in widely distributed areas. One group included iai in- 
digent men and women who applied for aid at the Goodman 
Guild in Columbus, Ohio, 3 and who stated that they were able 
to read and write. Of this number, 48 were women and 73, men. 

3 Data relative to this group were obtained by Dale and Tyler in their study of fac- 
tors of difficulty inherent in materials pertaining to the field of health. 



76 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

The mean age for the entire group was 26.2 years. The previous 
education claimed by this group varied from little or no school- 
ing to high-school graduation. The mean grade last attended 
was the seventh. 

A second group included 125 negro men of Chicago. 4 Because 
of the greater ease with which group contacts could be made, 
subjects were selected from such organizations as the lodge of 
Elks and Legion posts. Of the 265 who were asked to co-operate, 
140 refused. The most common reason for refusal, given by 
22.5 per cent, was inability to read. The rest of the 140 were 
less frank, but their reasons suggested poor reading ability. It 
is evident, therefore, that the 125 who co-operated in the study 
were not altogether representative of the negro male population 
of Chicago. The amount of education reported by this group 
ranged from fourth grade to third year in dental college, the 
median falling at eighth grade. An occupational classification 
of this group showed that the largest number, 20 per cent, were 
postal employees. The remainder were engaged in minor types 
of service ordinarily rendered by negroes in a large city. 

A third group included 537 colored adults in eighteen cities 
of Florida. All were engaged in group educational activities un- 
der the direction of the Agricultural and Mechanical Arts Col- 
lege at Tallahassee, Florida. Their mean age was 38 years. The 
mean grade last attended in school was the ninth. Clearly this 
group, like the Chicago group, was composed of negroes some- 
what above the average of their race in formal education, 

AT WHAT GRADE LEVELS DO ADULTS READ? 

The achievement records of all groups on the Monroe test 
are summarized in Table XIX. The left-hand column indicates 
the range of "B" scores, or grade scores. The columns to the right 
show the number and percentage of adults making each score. 
The entries in the table show, first, a very wide range of scores. 
This is to be expected, since the groups differed markedly in 

4 This part of the study was carried out by G. T. Wiggins, whose complete report of 
'The Reading Habits, Interests, and Achievements of Negro Male Adults" is in un- 
published form in the Department of Education Library, University of Chicago. 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 



77 



educational status. Seven adults obtained a score of 16.95 or 
above, that is, approximately grade 17. Seventy-seven received 
scores below 2.95, or less than the norm for grade 3. The mean 
score, 7.81, shows that the 1,690 adults tested were able to read 
with an average proficiency equal to the normal expectation of 

TABLE XIX 

NUMBER AND PERCENTAGE OF ADULTS IN SIXTEEN REP- 
RESENTATIVE GROUPS MAKING VARIOUS GRADE SCORES 
ON THE MONROE STANDARDIZED SILENT READING TEST 



Range of "B" Scores 


Number 


Per Cent 


16 . 95 or above 


7 


O 4.1 


IC.QC l6.QC 




O. C7 


14. QC I C .QC 


9Q 


I 78 


17. Q< IA.QC 


I O2 


6 OA 


12. QC IT.QC 


122. 


7.22 


II .QC I2.QC 


62 


3.67 


IO QC II.QC 


8l 


A QI 


9.QC IO.QC 


7A 


4 ^8 


'yj AW> :O 
8 QC- Q.QC 


184. 


IO.SQ 


7 QC 8 Q< 


72 


y 

4.26 


6 QC 7 QC 


82 


4.8C 


C .QC- 6 QC 


170 


10. 06 


A QC C QC 


I2C 


7.40 


Q C 4 Q C 


24.^ 


14.38 


2.QC- 1 QC 


2 4 8 


14.66 


-yi o-y:> 
Less than 2 95 


77 


4 .c6 








Total 


1600 


IOO.OO 









Mean 7.81+ .06 
S.D. =3.891.04 

pupils in the eighth month of the seventh grade. Somewhat less 
than half of the adults tested, 44 per cent, had reached or sur- 
passed a level of achievement equivalent to the reading norm 
for pupils in the eighth grade of the elementary school. 

Further inspection of the entries in the table shows that the 
scores tended to cluster around certain grade levels, namely, 
third, fourth, fifth, sixth, ninth, and thirteenth. The fact that 
about one-third of the persons tested ranked below fifth grade 



78 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

on the Monroe test recalls an observation made earlier with 
respect to achievement on the adult reading tests. One-third of 
the persons whose reading ability was measured by the latter 
tests were found to obtain scores below 40 out of a possible 92. 
It seems significant that the same proportion of both groups 
should manifest an ability in reading that undoubtedly pre- 
vents them from engaging satisfactorily in mature reading ac- 
tivities. Since the intelligent functioning of a democratic social 
order implies an intelligent citizenry, it seems socially impera- 
tive that the reading efficiency of large elements of our popula- 
tion should be improved or that more materials suited to their 
level of achievement should be prepared. The first proposal is 
receiving increasing attention from civic and federal authorities 
who have combined forces in the interest of adult education. In 
connection with the alternative proposal, there is a persistent 
need for more materials appropriately graded for adults whose 
reading scores fall below 6.95. 

GRADE LEVELS ATTAINED BY TWELVE GROUPS 
OF 756 ADULTS 

Table XX shows "B" scores made on the Monroe test by the 
twelve groups described earlier. The mean score, 9.68, is sig- 
nificantly higher than the mean score for all groups tested. De- 
spite this fact, about 30 per cent of the group failed to attain a 
level of efficiency which approaches mature reading, that is, 
seventh grade. Again, the observation can be made that ap- 
proximately the same percentage fell below a score of 40 on the 
Adult Reading Test. 

Figure 7 has been prepared to show more clearly the distri- 
bution of scores obtained by the twelve groups. As can readily 
be observedj the scores tend to cluster around three areas. 
About one-third fall in the area from 2 to 6; another third range 
from 7 to ia; and the remainder, from 13 to 17. These modal 
tendencies mark roughly the elementary, secondary, and col- 
lege levels. Were the measurement of reading ability to be ex- 
tended to include a wider sampling of adults, the distribution of 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 



79 



obtained scores would presumably conform fairly well to the 
normal curve. It is apparent from the evidence shown in Fig- 
ure 7 that adults are substantially differentiated with respect 
to reading ability. 

TABLE XX 

READING ABILITY OF 756 ADULT SUBJECTS AS MEAS- 
URED BY THE MONROE STANDARDIZED 
SILENT READING TEST 



Range of "B" Scores 


Number 


Per Cent 


1 6 95 and over 


6 


o 8 


IC.QC 16 QC 


6 


0.8 


I4..QC If. OC 


27 


3.6 


10 or i A QC 


8c 


II 2 


12 cK 11 Q< 


J 
07 


12 8 


II OC 12. Q< 


Al 


<.A 


IO.QC II .QC 


4-4. 


c.8 


9 or 10 Q< ... 


n 


6 8 


yj lv- 7j 
8 Q C Q . Q < 


Q< 


12.6 


7 . Q C 8 . Q C 


40 


t.'i 


6.QC 7.QC 


12 


4.2 


C QC 6 Q< 


62 


8.2 


D -iO W> :O 

A.QC C.Q< 


CT 


6.8 


1.QC 4..QC 


68 


9.0 


2 QC 7 Q< 


AA 


r 8 


I .QC 2Q< 


7 


O.Q 








Total 


7C6 


IOO.O 









The mean achievement of each group and the standard devia- 
tion of the mean are given in Table XXL In general, there is a 
definite tendency for the mean score to increase with the num- 
ber of years in school. Certain exceptions may be noted. For 
example, both the Berea Foundation and the A and M Junior 
High School groups fall below the Glenn Street School group, 
which was classified as elementary. This circumstance may be 
explained in part by the fact that the two junior high schools in 
question admit young people of limited education. The parent- 
teacher groups rank somewhat lower than their educational 



8o 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



status leads one to expect, and substantially lower than seems 
compatible with their superior accomplishment on the adult 
tests. It seems reasonable to attribute the rank on the Monroe 
test to the time element which tends to penalize adults who are 



Per Cent 



i 



i 



'95 '-95 3-95 4-9S 5-95 6 -9J 7-9S 



9-95 '95 "95 12 -95 U-9J 



' 6 V5 '795 



FIG. 7. Scores of 756 adults on the Monroe Standardized Silent Reading Test 

not attending school. The high rank of the Berry High School 
group probably has little real significance because of the small 
number of cases. In spite of these exceptions, the data imply 
that reading efficiency continues to improve with attendance at 
school, even at upper levels. Although the differences in mean 
scores at successive levels may not be highly significant, the 
general trend of improvement cannot be dismissed lightly. 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 



81 



For the sake of further comparison, let us assume that adults 
whose reading ability measures 7.0 or above have attained a 
reasonable proficiency in reading. We may then ask, What per- 
centage of adults in each group failed to reach the acceptable 
level of seventh-grade efficiency? The answer to the question 

TABLE XXI 

MEANS AND STANDARD DEVIATIONS OF THE SCORES OF TWELVE 

ADULT GROUPS ON THE MONROE STANDARDIZED 

SILENT READING TEST 



Group 


Mean 


S.D. 


Berry High School (Juniors and Seniors)*. . 
Berea College 


14.10 
I2.56+.I8 


2.04 
2.68.i3 


Berry College 


12 94. 4- IQ 


2 7O+ .14. 


A & M Model Senior High School 


II .6l+ .27 


3.48+ .IQ 


Berea Academy 


II 34 + . 2O 


2.89 .14 


Rabun Gap 


10. 2O + .W 


7.17+ .27 


Parent-teachers ... 


Q 47i I< 


I 96+ IO 


Berry High School (Freshmen) . . 


j'*rl -L *.) 
7 QC + A.1 


4.l6+ .70 


Glenn Street School* 


6 co 


2.7C 


A & M Model Junior High School 


6 . 24 + . 28 


2. 86 .20 


Berea Foundation 


6. 09 .14 


2.OI .IO 


Evening schools . 


C 40 i . 14 


1 .70+ .IO 


Entire group 


Q.68+ .00 


3.82+ .06 









* Probable errors not computed because of small number of cases. 

is shown in Figure 8. Evening schools were found to contain the 
highest percentage of adults with scores below 7.0, namely, 8.2. 
None of the Berry High School group attained scores below 7.0. 
As explained earlier, they were too few in number for reliable 
generalizations. 

An important fact revealed by the diagram is that a large 
number of deficient readers were found in most of the groups 
tested. This circumstance can hardly be attributed to mere 
chance. It seems rather to suggest that deficient adult readers 
persist somewhat generally. Abundant evidence is available to 
support the present findings concerning the inadequate prepa- 
ration of high-school and college students to read much of the 



8* WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

material prescribed for them. Less direct but equally convinc- 
ing evidence of 'immature reading ability among adults may be 
gleaned from facts pertaining to their reading interests and 
habits. 



Evening schools 
Berea Foundation 
A & M Junior High 

Glenn Street School 

Berry High School 
(Freshmen) 

Rabun Gap 
Berea Academy 
A & M Senior High 
Parent-teachers 
Berry College 
Berea College 

Berry High School 
(Juniors and Seniors) 

Per cent o 




30 40 50 60 70 80 90 



FIG. 8. Percentage of adults below seventh-grade level of reading achievement 
as determined by the Monroe test. (Adapted from Geary, op. cit., p. 50.) 

ACHIEVEMENT ON MONROE TEST COMPARED WITH 
ACHIEVEMENT ON THE ADULT READING TESTS 

A comparison of Table XVI with Table XIX reveals dif- 
ferences in the achievement of 756 adults as measured by the 
adult reading tests and the Monroe test. In some cases, the 
rank attained in reading adult materials is lower than the grade 
rank in comprehension seems to warrant. Four conspicuous ex- 
amples are the Berry High School Juniors and Seniors, who 
ranked first on the Monroe test and sixth on the adult tests; 
the A and M Seniors, who ranked fourth and eighth respective- 
ly; the Glenn Street Elementary students, whose rank of nine 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 83 

on the Monroe test was lowered to eleven when reading adult 
material; and the A and M Juniors, whose grade rank in silent 
reading was tenth and whose rank in reading adult material was 
twelfth and lowest. 

More striking variations may be noted in the opposite direc- 
tion for groups who read adult material relatively better than 
their grade-rank in silent reading implies. For example, parent- 
teacher groups ranked first on the adult tests and seventh on 
the Monroe test. Berea Academy, given second place in read- 
ing materials commonly read by adults, ranked fifth according 
to grade norms. The evening-school groups showed a difference 
in rank from nine to twelve on the respective measures of read- 
ing ability. 

A rough indication of the relationship between ability to read 
as measured by the two tests is shown by a rank correlation of 
. 623.5 More specific relationships are given in Table XXII. 
These relationships are expressed in terms of coefficients of cor- 
relation which indicate the agreement between achievement on 
the Monroe test and comprehension of materials in Forms i 
and 2 of the adult test. None of the coefficients is high enough 
to show close agreement. The disparity in relationship may be 
due to several influences. The tests may not be altogether re- 
liable, or they may measure somewhat different abilities. Some 
groups may read adult materials with a proficiency beyond that 
manifested by the Monroe test because of familiarity with gen- 
eral materials. The explanation may He in the timed conditions 
attached to the latter test or in some other contributing factor. 

Probably the most significant fact to be derived from the 
table is that in general the scores of adults ranking lowest on the 
Monroe test correlated highest with scores on the adult tests. 
One may infer, therefore, that for adults of limited proficiency 

s Spearman's formula based on rank differences is 



Karl J. Holzinger, Statistical Methods for Students In Education (Boston: Ginn & Co., 
1928), p. a78. 



8 4 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



in reading the Monroe test indicates with reasonable accuracy 
the ability of the group to read adult fiction and non-fiction of a 
general sort. 

DO ADULTS TEND TO ATTAIN HIGHER LEVELS OF COMPRE- 
HENSION WITH INCREASED EDUCATIONAL TRAINING? 

This question can be answered in a general way by comparing 
the mean reading achievement of each group, Tables XX and 

TABLE XXII 

CORRELATIONS BETWEEN SCORES ON FORMS i AND 2 OF THE ADULT 

READING TEST AND THE MONROE STANDARDIZED 

SILENT READING TEST 



Groups 


Monroe and 
Fiction 
(Form i) 


Monroe and 
Non-Fiction 
(Form 2) 


Glenn Street* 


.61 


54 


Rabun Gap 


, CQ + .07 


.65.o6 


Parent- teachers 


50 + 06 


4.C + 06 


Berea. Foundation 


A,Q + ,OC 


.4/1+ .06 


A & M Senior High School 


48+ 06 


27+ O7 


Evening schools 


.4.1+ O7 


.31 08 


Berry High School (Freshmen) 


4! 08 


?< + OQ 


A & M Junior High School 


38 08 


18+ 10 


Berry College 


. *u .06 


. i r + . 06 


Berry High School (Juniors and Seniors) * . . 
Berea College .... 


3* 

3o .06 


33 

25 + 06 


Berea Academy 


28+ 06 


42 06 









* Probable errors not computed because of small number of cases. 

XXI, with educational training, Table XL There is evidence 
of close agreement between educational training and mean 
achievement on the Monroe test, the most obvious exceptions 
being noted in the Berea Foundation, the A and M Junior High 
School, and the parent-teacher groups. Less agreement as 
shown by rank order is found between educational training and 
ability to read fiction, as measured by Form i of the adult test. 
While there is no reason to expect absolute agreement, some 
variations are both unexpected and interesting. The apparent 
superiority of the Berea Academy to other secondary school 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 




groups on the Monroe test is even more marked than on the 
fiction test, where it ranks slightly above the college groups 
tested. Satisfactory explanations for this circumstance cannot 
be found in the evidence at hand. The A and M Junior High 
School ranks not only lower than other groups similarly classi- 

Glenn Street School 

Evening schools 

Berea Foundation 

A & M Junior High 

Berea Academy 

Berry High School (Freshmen) 

Rabun Gap 

A & M Senior High 

Berry High School 
(Juniors and Seniors) 

Berea College 

Berry College 

II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X XI XII XIII XIV XV X\ 

FIG. 9. School grade and reading grade achievement. (Portion in black represents 
reading retardation; shaded portion, reading acceleration.) (Adapted from Cleary, 
op. cit., p. 47.) 

fied in ability to read fiction but lower than groups classified as 
elementary. Similarly, the A and M Senior High School group 
ranks conspicuously lower than others with which it may rea- 
sonably be compared. These two groups, representing elements 
of the negro population, are handicapped by meager reading 
facilities. They probably engage in little independent reading. 
In Figure 9 is given a graphic comparison of reading achieve- 
ment, as measured by the Monroe test, and general educational 




86 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

training, as indicated by grade-placement or last grade in school. 
While the figure shows plainly that reading achievement tends 
to parallel educational training in a general way, only four of 
the eleven groups had acquired a reading ability at or above the 
expected norm. The Glenn Street School and the A and M Senior 
High School groups reached average expectancy for their levels 
of schooling, while the Berry High School (junior and senior) 
and Berea Academy groups exceeded it. The tendency for read- 
ing retardation to grow less in amount as schooling progresses 
is to be expected, since disability in reading would naturally be 
reflected in a lack of general progress. Exceptions are to be 
noted in the two college groups. Since the parent-teacher group 
was not in school, no attempt was made to estimate their ratio 
of achievement. 

Despite the fact that there is a general correspondence be- 
tween average reading achievement and educational training, 
individual records tend to depart from this general trend. 

ACHIEVEMENT OF THE VILLAGE GROUP 

What is the reading ability of adults living in village and rural 
areas of the sort represented by Coatsburg, Illinois? This ques- 
tion can be answered by reference to Table XXIII. Entries in 
the table show that mean score, range in achievement, and vari- 
ability of the group scores are similar for the village and rural 
groups. The mean score of the combined group, 7*92, agrees 
closely with the mean score of the total 1,690 adults tested, 
shown in Table XIX to be 7.81. In view of the fact that the 
total group included college students and college graduates, the 
similarity in mean achievement is not expected. This agreement 
suggests that the Coatsburg groups may fairly represent the 
class of reader termed "average" in larger and more diversified 
groups. The investigation needs to be extended, however, be- 
fore we can define the reading level of the average adult at ap- 
proximately eighth grade, as the present data indicate. 

What is the reading ability of adults when they read orally? 
This question arose in connection with the Coatsburg groups. 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 



From their mean ages, 44.9 and 43.5 years, the inference seemed 
warranted that their training in reading might have been re- 
ceived at a time when oral rather than silent reading prevailed 
in classrooms. Their proficiency in oral reading, therefore, 
might presumably surpass that of silent reading. 

TABLE XXIII 

NUMBER AND PERCENTAGE OF 151 VILLAGE AND RURAL ADULTS MAKING VARIOUS 
GRADE SCORES ON THE MONROE STANDARDIZED SILENT READING TEST 



GRADE SCORE 


75 VILLAGE 
PEOPLE 


76 FARM ADULTS 


COMBINED 
GROUP 


No. 


Per Cent 


No. 


Per Cent 


No. 


Per Cent 


1 6 . 95 or above 






i 

2 


1.32 
2.63 


i 

2 
2 
4 

7 
7 

J 3 
8 

13 

IO 
IO 
12 
*3 

*5 

13 

I 


0.66 
1.32 
1.32 
2.65 
4.64 
4.64 
8.61 
5-30 
8.61 
6.62 
6.62 
7*95 
*5- 2 3 
16.56 
8.61 
0.66 


IC.QC l6.QC 






I A QC 1C QC 


i 
i 

1 

8 

3 

2 

3 
5 
7 
9 
16 
8 


2.67 

i-33 
6.67 
8,00 
10.67 
4.00 
2.67 
4.00 
6.67 
9-33 

12. OO 

"33 

10.67 


17 .QC 14. QC . .... 


3 

2 

I 

5 
5 
ii 

7 
5 
5 
14 
9 
5 
i 


3-95 
2.63 
1.32 
6.58 
6.58 
14,47 
9,21 
6.58 
6.58 
18.42 
11.84 
6.58 
1.32 


12. QC 17. QC 


JJ A J .7J 
II .QC 12. QC 


IO.QC II -QC 


9QC IO QC . ... 


iO xvy ';O 
8 QC Q.QC 


7 QC 8.QC 


6 QC 7.QC 


C.QC 6.QC. . . 


A QC C QC 


*r'7j j'yj 
3QC A QC 


2.QC- 7.QC 


Less than 2 . 95 


Totals 






75 


IOO.OI 


76 


IOO.OI 


15* 


100.00 


Mean 


7.80+ .28 
3.6i.2o 


8.o 4 .27 
3-4j-*9 


7.92.i 9 
3-53-*3 


S.D 





Interesting comparisons are afforded by the data in Table 
XXIV. The table shows the last grade in school attended by 
members of the village and rural groups and their grade scores 
in oral and silent reading. The oral reading scores were ob- 
tained through the use of the Standardized Oral Reading Para- 
graphs, which measure achievement in terms of rate of oral 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



reading and number of errors made. The average grade score 
in oral reading for the village adults is 9.1 ; in silent reading, 7.8. 
For rural adults these scores are increased respectively to 9.7 
and 8,0. Both groups show an average achievement in oral read- 

TABLE XXIV 

GRADE LAST ATTENDED AND GRADE SCORES IN ORAL READING AND IN COMPRE- 
HENSION FOR 75 VILLAGE AND 76 RURAL ADULTS 



GRADE 


75 VILLAGE ADULTS 


76 RURAL ADULTS 


Grade 
Last 

Attended 


Oral 
Reading 
Grade 
Score 


Compre- 
hension 
Grade 
Score 


Grade 
Last 
Attended 


Oral 

Reading 
Grade 
Score 


Compre- 
hension 
Grade 
Score 


II 










2 

3 
5 
3 
32 
8 
8 

7 
8 
o 
o 



o 




i 
o 
i 
4 
3 
4 
II 

9 
13 
27 

3 



o 
o 



o 


i 

5 
9 
14 
5 
5 
7 
ii 

5 
5 
i 

2 

3 

o 

2 
I 


III 


i 

4 
6 

4 

3 

27 

*3 
8 

2 

7 



o 




2 

i 

7 
3 
5 
ii 

12 
II 
20 
2 

I 
O 


8 
16 
9 
7 
5 
3 

2 

3 
8 
6 

5 
i 

2 


IV 


V 


VI 


VII 


VIII 


IX 


X 


XI 


XII 


XIII . 


XIV 


XV 


XVI 


XVII 








Total. .. 
Mean. . . 








75 


75 


75 


76 


76 


76 


8 


9-i 


7.8 


8 


9-7 


3.04 



ing approximately one and one-half grades in advance of aver- 
age achievement in silent reading. Since the mean grade last 
attended by both groups was the eighth, it is apparent that 
adults in this community were sufficiently well trained in the 
mechanics of reading to surpass, years later, the norm for that 
grade* Their mean achievement in silent reading corresponds 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



more closely to the amount of schooling received than was 
noted with respect to the twelve groups reported earlier. 

The difference in achievement in oral and silent reading is 
strikingly illustrated by Figure 10. While it is evident that more 
adults received high scores in oral than in silent reading, it is 

TABLE XXV 

NUMBER AND PERCENTAGE OF ADULTS IN EACH OF THREE NEGRO GROUPS 
MAKING VARIOUS SCORES ON THE MONROE STANDARDIZED 
SILENT READING TEST 



GRADE SCORES 


COLUMBUS 
GROUP 


CHICAGO 
GROUP 


FLORIDA 
GROUP 


TOTAL 


No. 


Per 
Cent 


No. 


Per 

Cent 


No. 


Per 

Cent 


No. 


Per 

Cent 


tr of 16 oc 






i 
i 

8 
9 

2 
. . 4 


0.80 
0.80 
6.40 
7.20 
i. 60 
3.20 
4.80 
14.40 
4.80 

12. CO 
18.40 
8.80 

8.00 
8.80 






i 

i 

*3 
18 

14 
26 

IS 
76 

22 
4 
9 6 

51 
150 
I 9 I 
69 


0.13 
0.13 
1.66 
2.30 
1.79 

3-32 
i ,92 
9.71 
2.81 
5.11 
12.26 
6. 51 

I9.l6 
2 4-39 

8.81 


A .) -yj AVJ *!?J 
Hnf ir or 










I3.QC Ii.Q< 






5 
9 
ii 

22 

8 

5 2 
14 

22 
56 
32 

118 
146 
42 


o-93 
1.68 
2.05 
4.10 
1.49 
9.68 
2.61 
4.10 

10.43 
5.96 
21.97 
27.18 
7.82 


I2.Q<~ IT.oC 






II .QC I2.Q< 


i 


0.83 


IO QC II <X 


9QC 10 <K 


i 
6 

2 

3 

*7 

8 
22 

34 

27 


0.83 
4.96 
1.65 
2.48 
14.05 
6,61 
18.18 
28.10 
22.31 


6 
18 
6 
15 
^3 
ii 

IO 

ii 


8.CX Q.CX 


7.<X- 8.Q* 


6.<K 7.QC 


<.Q< 6.oc 


4..q< C.QC 


T.CK 4..QC 


2.<K~ ^.Q< 


-yj o-io 
Less than 2 gt 


Total. 






121 


JOO.OO 


125 


100.00 


537 


100.00 


783 


ICO.OI 


Mean 


4.57-*3 
2.o8 .09 


8.20 .20 

3-3i-*4 


5*79-9 
2.95.o6 


5. 9 8.o7 
3-^-5 


S.D 





quite as evident that some adults ranked low on both types of 
reading. It is doubtful, therefore, if they can read and compre- 
hend satisfactorily much of the adult material now published 
that should be of interest to them. Probably at least 40 per cent 
of the village and rural groups are able to read only relatively 
simple reading matter. 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 91 

HOW WELL DO NEGRO ADULTS READ? 

Three groups of negroes numbering more than 800 were in- 
cluded in the study. The distribution of their scores is given in 
Table XXV. A cursory glance shows that most of the negroes 
ranked low in comprehension. The mean of the Columbus group 
is 4-57- This is the achievement normally expected of pupils 
in the fifth month of the fourth grade. The mean of the Chicago 
group is 8.2,0; of the Florida groups, 5.79; and of all groups, 
5.98. At the lower extreme of the range it may be noted that 
below the fourth grade norm are 50 per cent of the Columbus 
group, about 10 per cent of the Chicago group, and 35 per cent 
of the Florida group. Only if per cent of the Columbus group 
rank as high as tenth grade in reading achievement, whereas 
25 per cent of the Chicago group reach or exceed that level. 

It may be remembered that the group tested in Columbus was 
composed of indigent negroes of little education. The Chicago 
group, on the other hand, included employed negro men, whose 
formal education had extended on the average to eighth grade. 
Significant differences in the mean achievement of these groups 
probably may be explained, therefore, by the selectiveness of 
the groups. If we assume that a "B" score of 7.0 that is, a level 
of reading achievement normally attained in seventh grade is 
desirable, then it is evident from Table XXV that approximate- 
ly 70 per cent of the negroes tested are unable to engage in- 
telligently in reading activities at the adult level. 

CONCLUDING STATEMENT 

From the findings presented in this chapter, it is obviously 
impossible to arrive at any very far-reaching conclusions con- 
cerning the reading efficiency of adults. The question of how 
well adults read must be answered ultimately in terms of par- 
ticular groups reading different kinds of materials for a variety 
of purposes. Such an answer cannot be obtained from our find- 
ings, for the reason that they lack the specificity implied in the 
foregoing statement. The number of adults tested is too few to 
permit classification as to age, sex, race, occupation, educational 



92 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

background, reading experiences, and other factors which pre- 
sumably influence reading ability. The test materials, although 
restricted to what we are wont to term "general" materials, 
deal with a variety of subjects seemingly representative of 
varying degrees of interest and familiarity. The outcomes of 
reading by which ability is measured fall far short of all the 
outcomes of adult reading activities. 

It is clear from these limitations that we have made no more 
than a broadside attack on the problem of how well adults read. 
If the findings obtained in this fashion have even a small degree 
of reliability, we may expect to find from extended studies in- 
formation concerning reading ability that will have practical 
value for workers with adult groups. 

The specific conclusions and implications warranted by the 
findings presented in this chapter may be summarized as fol- 
lows: 

I. About one-sixth of the adults tested are able to read with 
a degree of proficiency normally achieved by high-school gradu- 
ates. Half of this number have attained the norm of college 
students. Only one-half of one per cent, however, were found to 
read with the proficiency expected of college graduates. It seems 
reasonable to conclude, therefore, that adults in this upper one- 
sixth of the total sampling are sufficiently skilled to read the 
more difficult types of materials now available. 

a. Approximately one-half of the adults tested have attained 
a sufficiently high level of achievement to enable them to read 
with reasonable ease and understanding most of the general ma- 
terials now prepared for adults. For this group, radical changes 
in the character of available material do not seem imperative. 
However, a wider production of high-grade material, slightly 
less difficult than the "better" fiction and non-fiction now pro- 
duced, should be of distinct advantage. 

3. At least one- third of the 1,690 adults who co-operated in 
the study have not acquired sufficient skill to enable them to 
engage intelligently in adult reading activities. They read gen- 
eral materials in books, magazines, and newspapers with an 



HOW WELL DO ADULTS READ? 93 

average score of 40 out of a possible 90. Their achievement in 
silent reading, as measured in terms of grade norms, does not 
exceed fifth grade. For them the enriching values of reading are 
denied, unless materials reflecting adult interests be adapted 
to meet their needs. The data in this chapter suggest that the 
materials provided should correspond in difficulty to those ap- 
propriate for use in the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. Such a 
proposal presupposes the availability of still simpler materials 
for use in promoting functioning literacy and in establishing 
fundamental reading habits. 

4. A considerable portion of the adults tested,, approximately 
one-sixth, is able to read only the simplest newspapers, maga- 
zines, and books. A smaller percentage, one twenty-fifth, is able 
to read only such materials as might appropriately be used in 
the second grade of the elementary school. Reading content 
prepared for primary children falls far short of meeting adult 
needs, yet simple adult material of a high order is not readily 
available. If the reading efficiency of this group is to be im- 
proved through definite training, what materials, then, should 
be used? The problem is vital and timely. It seems challenging 
enough and sufficiently widespread in its application to warrant 
the intensive study of the difficulty of reading materials as pre- 
sented in the remaining chapters of this report. 

To answer precisely the question of how well adults read, 
there is evident need for a series of carefully controlled studies 
utilizing various groups of adults, each of which is approximate- 
ly alike in those personal characteristics that presumably in- 
fluence reading ability. Such studies will aim to define specific 
reading abilities for each group with respect to the kind of ma- 
terial read and the outcome desired. 



CHAPTER IV 

WHAT ELEMENTS INFLUENCE THE DIFFICULTY 
OF ADULT READING MATERIALS? 

THE preliminary study reported in chapter iii sought to 
evaluate the reading efficiency of adults who were clas- 
sified at various educational levels. The evidence pre- 
sented indicates that in practically every group tested there was 
a large percentage of adults who had not attained the maturity in 
reading expected of them. It seems probable that the reading 
ability of adults in general has been greatly overestimated by 
persons who prepare materials for adult readers. It seems prob- 
able, also, that much of the reading matter now available is too 
difficult for readers of limited ability to understand. Hence it 
fails to reach many persons who are interested in its content and 
who would read it if they could. Without question, some of this 
material would reach a larger audience were a reliable technique 
devised by means of which difficulty could be determined with 
accuracy. 

In the present chapter two assumptions have been made. One 
is that there are elements inherent in reading materials which 
are significant indicators of difficulty; the other, that the identi- 
fication of these elements is an essential step in developing a 
technique which will help to solve the problem of meeting the 
individual reading needs of adults. The purpose of the chapter 
is, first, to identify the elements of difficulty which we have as- 
sumed are inherent in reading materials; and, second, to find 
out how these elements may be utilized in a more accurate esti- 
mate of the difficulty of specific books, magazines, and news- 
papers. 

As stated in chapter i, we have limited our study to a determi- 
nation of elements of difficulty inherent in reading materials. 
Furthermore, we have restricted the elements to structural ones 

94 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 95 

which the author uses to express his ideas. This approach to the 
problem in no way denies that other elements may contribute 
to difficulty. Concreteness or abstractness of idea, universality 
of appeal, directness of presentation, and other factors inherent 
in the content unquestionably are related to ease or difficulty 
of understanding. Similarly, reading interests, attitudes and 
motives, intellectual capacity, previous experience, and other 
factors relating to the reader probably exert large influence on 
ease of reading. Important as these factors are, they are con- 
sidered only incidentally in this study. We are concerned pri- 
marily with reading materials and the structural elements in- 
herent in their expression that are indexes of difficulty. 

The investigation is limited further to materials sought by 
the general reader without relation to his professional or busi- 
ness interests. Fiction and general non-fiction have been con- 
sidered universally applicable within certain limitations, such 
as linguistic area, individual interests, and reading ability. 
Since detailed studies of the reading activities of adults, as re- 
ported by Gray and Monroe, show that about 50 per cent of 
adults read books, 75 per cent read magazines, and 95 per cent 
or more read newspapers, these three types of reading matter 
have been taken as generally representative of what adults 
read. 1 

From the facts presented in chapter iii, it is clear that all 
persons do not read equally well. Nor does any one person, as a 
rule, read all materials equally well. It follows, therefore, that 
not only do adults differ in ability to read, as has been em- 
phasized earlier, but materials differ in difficulty for the same 
reader or group of readers. To obtain an index of difficulty for 
different reading materials was the first step in determining 
elements of difficulty inherent in them. The second was to make 
a quantitative study of the elements of expression contained in 
the materials which might be related to difficulty. In the final 
step, correlations were calculated between the series of elements 

1 William S. Gray and Ruth Monroe, The 'Reading Interests and Habits of Adults 
(New York: Macmillan Co., 1929), p. 262. 



96 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

and the criterion of difficulty for each of the materials studied. 
Evidence thus obtained was used to identify elements of diffi- 
culty in general reading materials. 

OBTAINING A CRITERION OF DIFFICULTY 

In discovering how difficult general reading materials are for 
adult readers, we gave the Adult Reading Test to 756 adults, as 
described in chapter iii. It may be recalled that Form i of this 
test contains paragraphs of fiction and Form 2, paragraphs of 
non-fiction. All paragraphs in both tests were taken from the 
general books, magazines, and newspapers most widely read by 
adults. The method of scoring described in Appendix C renders 
a score for each test paragraph which ranges from +4, the 
highest possible score, to 4, the lowest possible score. Should 
any test paragraph be so easy as to be perfectly comprehended 
by all subjects, its criterion of difficulty would represent the 
average of all perfect scores, or +4- On the other hand, if a 
paragraph is so difficult that all subjects make the worst possible 
responses, as they theoretically may do, the criterion of diffi- 
culty, representing the average reading score, would be 4, 
Average scores for all test paragraphs in Forms i and 2 of the 
Adult Reading Test are given in Appendix D, on pages 334-36. 
In reading these data one should remember that a high average 
score designates an easy selection, and a low average score a 
difficult selection, 

WHAT ELEMENTS IN THE TEST PARAGRAPHS 
MAY INFLUENCE DIFFICULTY? 

With this question we turn again to the thesis which prompt- 
ed the present study, namely, that there are elements inherent 
in reading material which are related to difficulty. The average 
reading scores obtained on the test paragraphs seem to support 
this thesis. For example, one paragraph received an average 
score of 3.0, whereas another had an average score of 0.7. Ac- 
cording to the criterion of difficulty accepted in this study, the 
second paragraph is clearly more difficult than the first. Accord- 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 97 

ing to our primary assumption, it contains elements of expres- 
sion which differ in kind and quantity from those contained in 
the first. 

Before such elements could be determined, it was necessary 
to analyze the paragraphs for the occurrence of elements of ex- 
pression that may bear some relation to difficulty. In this con- 
nection we attempted to compile a reasonably complete list 
of the elements used in adult fiction and general non-fiction. 
With this list to guide the analysis of reading materials, it was 
hoped that the ultimate identification of structural elements of 
difficulty would be both reliable and comprehensive. 

Suggestions were derived from a variety of sources. Some 
were obtained from studies of children's literature and of certain 
types of adult reading. Others were suggested by directors and 
teachers of adult schools who are faced with the problem of 
choosing appropriate reading materials; by adult students at- 
tending evening classes; and by professors of English who are 
accustomed to analyze style of written discourse. These were 
supplemented by a careful scrutiny of many different types of 
reading matter. 

Table XXVI lists the expressional elements suggested as po- 
tential elements of difficulty. It may be noted that elements 
numbered from i to 41 are primarily properties of words. Those 
numbered from 42 to 66 belong essentially to sentences. The 
remaining elements are associated generally with paragraphs of 
entire selections. 

EXAMINATION OF THE LIST OF EXPRESSIONAL ELEMENTS 

Before accepting the elements listed in Table XXVI for use 
in experimentation, it seemed essential to examine each element 
critically in order to determine whether it could be adapted to 
experimental procedures. What does the element mean? Is it 
objectively measurable? These are the questions which we 
sought to answer in examining different elements in the list. 

In some cases, the first question could be answered precisely. 
For example, the meaning of monosyllables, personal pronouns, 



9 8 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



TABLE XXVI 

ELEMENTS OF EXPRESSION SUGGESTED AS POTENTIAL INDICATORS 
OF DIFFICULTY IN ADULT READING MATERIAL 



NUMBER 



ELEMENT 



Properties of Words 



*i Number of easy words 

*2 Percentage of easy words 

*3 Number of different hard words 

*4 Number of words not known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade 

children 

*5 Percentage of words not known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade 

children 

*6 Number of different words 

*7 Percentage of different words 

*8 Percentage of monosyllables 

*9 Percentage of bisyllables 

*io Percentage of polysyllables 

*n First-person pronouns 

*ia Second-person pronouns 

*I3 Third-person pronouns 

*i4 First-, second-, and third-person pronouns 

15 Nouns (proper, abstract, and concrete) 

16 Verbs 

17 Adjectives (descriptive, limiting) 

1 8 Articles (definite, indefinite) 

19 Adverbs (time, place, manner) 

20 Conjunctions (co-ordinate, subordinate) 

21 Interjections 

22 Prepositions 

*23 Content words 

*24 Structural words 

25 Image-bearing words 

26 Non-image-bearing words 

*27 Words beginning with w 

*a8 Words beginning with h 

*29 Words beginning with b 

*3O Words beginning with i 

*3i Words beginning with e 

32 Words associated with adult living 

33 Words expressing abstractions 

*34 Asides, appositives, parenthetical expressions 

*3fj Dialect words 

*3 Archaic words, rare words 

*37 Local expressions and coined words 

38 Poetic and highly literary words 

*39 Idiomatic expressions 

*40 Proper nouns of mythology and history 

41 Technical words 



* Retained as a potential element of difficulty for further study. 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 99 

TABLE XXVI Continued 



NUMBER 



ELEMENT 



Properties of Sentences 



*42 Average sentence-length in words 

*43 Average sentence-length in syllables 

*44 Maximum syllabic sentence-length 

*45 Minimum syllabic sentence-length 

*4<5 Range of syllabic sentence-length 

*47 Number of simple sentences 

*48 Percentage of simple sentences 

*49 Number of compound sentences 

*o Percentage of compound sentences 

*5i Number of complex sentences 

*52 Percentage of complex sentences 

*53 Number of compound-complex sentences 

*54 Percentage of compound-complex sentences 

*55 Number of compound and compound-complex sentences 

*56 Clauses introduced by subordinate conjunctions 

*57 Clauses introduced by conjunctive adverbs 

^58 Clauses introduced by relative pronouns 

*59 Prepositional phrases 

*6o Infinitive phrases 

*6i Prepositional and infinitive phrases 

*62 Explicit thought-statements 

*6j Implicit thought-statements 

*64 Static predication of thought-statements 

*65 Dynamic predication of thought-statements 

*66 Figures of speech 

Properties of Paragraphs or Entire Selections 

*6j Number of words in a selection 

*68 Number of sentences in a selection 

*69 Number of ideas in a selection 

*yo Direct discourse 

*yi Indirect discourse 

72 Scenic narration 

73 Dramatic narration 

74 Physical associations 

75 Psychic associations 

*j6 A sequence of ideas to show effects 

*77 A sequence of ideas to show causes 

*7$ Deductive presentation of a thought 

*79 Inductive presentation of a thought 

*8o Enumeration of ideas to show cause and effect 

*8t Repetition of an idea for emphasis 

*82 Development of an idea from a topic sentence 



ioo WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

and simple sentences is clearly fixed. In other cases, the mean- 
ing is variable unless defined arbitrarily for purposes of the 
study* For this reason we set up certain definitions for such 
elements as "easy" words, "hard" words, "scenic" narration, 
"dramatic" narration, and so on. These definitions will be given 
in later sections of the chapter. In a few cases an element seemed 
to defy precise definition. For example, when we attempted to 
define words associated with adult living, we met the difficulty 
of defining all the objectives, activities, attitudes, and other 
aspects of adult living. Such an undertaking was obviously im- 
possible. Since words associated with adult living, then, cannot 
be defined accurately, that element was rejected from the list of 
elements retained for experimentation. 

Answering the first question tended generally to answer the 
second. That is to say, if an element can be defined precisely, 
it can be measured objectively in the majority of cases. For 
example, once we have defined "easy" words, as is done farther 
on, we can count them as accurately as monosyllables, the 
meaning of which is established universally. If doubt arose in 
determining whether an element is objectively measurable, we 
made repeated counts of the element in the same sample of 
reading material and compared results of the several counts. If 
the counts disagreed, then it was obvious that the element does 
not meet the test of objectivity. 

The following paragraphs indicate the nature of the examina- 
tion made of each element in Table XXVI. Wherever it seems 
necessary the definition of the element is included. 

Easy and hard words. In accordance with the plan adopted 
by Dale and Tyler in their study of technical reading materials, 
a word was here assumed to be "easy," regardless of its length, 
if it is a familiar word, and "hard," if unfamiliar, 2 Familiarity 
was established by the presence of a word in a composite list 3 

9 Edgar Dale and Ralph W. Tyler, "A Study of the Factors Influencing the Difficulty 
of Reading Materials for Adults of Limited Reading Ability," Library Quarterly, IV 
tT^ly, 1934), 384-412. 

3 Edgar Dale* "A Comparison of Two Word-Lists,'* Educational Research Bulletin, X 
(December 9, 1931), 484-89, 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 101 

of the most frequent words in Thorndike's The Teachers' Word 
Book 4 and the Word List of the International Kindergarten 
Union. 5 

Since the occurrence of a word in the Thorndike list indicates 
that it is among the thousand words most frequently encoun- 
tered in general reading, and since its presence in the kinder- 
garten list is evidence of its familiarity to children before they 
enter first grade, the conclusion seems warranted that the word 
possesses zero difficulty for adults. Seven hundred and sixty- 
nine words were found by Dale to be common to both lists. 
These constitute the list of easy words which Dale and Tyler 
have found to be indicators of ease in technical material. 

Words not designated "easy" were here considered "hard/* 
as in Dale and Tyler's study. Again the classification is arbi- 
trary. Although it may seem unduly broad, such a classifica- 
tion recognizes that an extremely common word, like "as/* "so/* 
"does/' and "get," may bear connotations that make it far 
more difficult than a less common word, like "bonfire" or 
"truck," the meaning of which is relatively fixed. Hard words 
can be accurately determined after easy words have been 
checked from a given selection. The extent of hardness implied 
in any word so classified was determined by the next element. 

Words not known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade pupils. The in- 
clusion of this element as a probable index of difficulty was sug- 
gested by Dale's study of the familiarity of 8,000 common words 
to elementary-school pupils. 6 Each word was classified by Dale 
according to the percentage of familiarity it was found to have 
among 7,878 children in the fourth, sixth, and eighth grades. 
By administering the list to adults he found that their scores 

4 Edward L. Thorndike, A Teachers* Word Book of the Twenty Thousand Words 
Found Most Frequently and Widely in General Reading for Children and Young People. 
New York: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1932. Pp. 182.. 

5 International Kindergarten Union Child Study Committee, A Study of the Vocabu- 
lary of Children before Entering First Grade. Washington: International Kindergarten 
Union, 1928. Pp. 36. 

6 Edgar Dale, "Familiarity of 8,000 Common Words to Pupils in the Fourth, Sixth, 
and Eighth Grades." Unpublished study, Bureau of Educational Research, Ohio State 
University, Columbus, Ohio. Pp. 84. 



loa WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

correlated .65 with sixth-grade scores. It seems likely, there- 
fore, that a word not known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade pupils 
will present definite difficulty to adults of limited reading 
ability. Support for this hypothesis has been presented by Dale 
and Tyler in their study of elements of difficulty in technical 
materials, and by Ojemann in his investigation of factors asso- 
ciated with difficulty of materials used for parent education. 7 

Different words. Claims have been made that range of vo~ 
cabulary, or vocabulary diversity, as measured by the percent- 
age of different words in a selection is an indicator of difficulty. 
Two assumptions are made in accepting this element as a meas- 
ure of vocabulary difficulty. One is that a smaller percentage of 
different words must have a greater amount of repetition. The 
other is that repetition tends to make reading material less diffi- 
cult. The findings of Lively and Pressey are distinctly sugges- 
tive of comparative difficulty among vocabularies found in 
textbooks when range of vocabulary is obtained for thousand- 
word samplings. 8 By using a combined measure of frequency 
and range, other investigators have obtained similar findings: 
Dolch, in his study of school readers; and Patty and Painter, 
in their evaluation of high-school texts. 9 Vogel and Washburne 
found that the number of different words in a thousand is the 
best single indicator of difficulty of a selection for school chil- 
dren 3 since it correlates highest with their median reading 
score. 10 

* Dale and Tyler, op. cit.; Ralph H. Ojemann, "The Reading Ability of Parents and 
Factors Associated with Reading Difficulty of Parent-Education Materials," Researches 
in Parent Education, II. University of Iowa Studies, Studies in Child Welfare, VIII 
(March I, 1934), 11-32. 

8 Bertha A. Lively and S. L. Pressey, "A Method for Measuring the 'Vocabulary 
Burden* of Textbooks, Educational Administration and Supervision, IX (October, 
i9*3)> 389-98. 

9 Edward William Dolch, "Vocabulary Burden," Journal of Educational Research, 
XVII (March, 1928), 170-83; W. W. Patty and W. I. Painter, "Improving Our Method 
of Selecting High-School Textbooks/' ibid., XXIV (June, 1931), 23-32; W.W.Patty 
and W. I. Painter, "Technique for Measuring the Vocabulary Burden of Textbooks," 
ibid., XXIV (September, 1931), 127-34. 

* Mabel Vogel and Carleton Washburne, "An Objective Method of Determining 
Grade Placement of Children's Reading Material,* 7 Elementary School Journal, XXVIII 
(January, 1928), 373-81. 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 103 

Syllabic length of word. Evidence obtained by Bear in an 
experimental study of the comparative difficulty of monosyl- 
lables and polysyllables in children's reading led to the conclu- 
sion that long words are generally more difficult than short 
words. 11 

McCluskey's quantitative analysis of adult reading materials 
representing six fields of subject matter showed that easy read- 
ing matter, embodied in fiction, contains more short words and 
fewer long words than are found in more difficult selections. 12 
In content bearing on psychology and physics, which according 
to objective tests proved to be most difficult, fewer short words 
and more long words were discovered than in fiction. The same 
elements which differentiate easy from difficult passages were 
found to differentiate also moderately difficult passages from 
those of still greater difficulty. The distinction was merely a 
matter of degree. 

Personal pronouns. The hypothesis that the informality 
with which material is written increases its simplicity and con- 
sequently the ease with which it is read, has led other investi- 
gators to determine the relationship between number of per- 
sonal pronouns and reading difficulty. That second-person pro- 
nouns are indicators of ease in technical material has been found 
by Dale and Tyler. For the present study, personal pronouns 
in the first, second, and third person were taken first as separate 
elements, and were then combined into a single element for ex- 
perimentation. 

Other parts of speech. The classification of words according 
to their function in language expression represents the so-called 
"parts of speech." They include nouns, pronouns, verbs, ad- 
jectives, adverbs, conjunctions, interjections, and prepositions. 
Other investigators have found significant relationship to diffi- 
culty only in the case of pronouns and prepositions. In this 

11 The major findings of Bear's study are summarized by George R. Johnson, "An 
Objective Method of Determining Reading Difficulty," Journal of Educational Research, 
XXI (April, 1930), 283-87. 

12 Howard Y. McCluskey, *'A Quantitative Analysis of the Difficulty of Reading Ma- 
terials." Unpublished study, University of Michigan, 1933. 



io 4 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

study, therefore, these two classes of words were isolated for 
enumeration. Classifications of words according to meaning and 
association were substituted for classification according to func- 
tion. They are described in paragraphs that follow. 

Content and structural words. The classification of words as 
"content" or "structural" grew out of the hypothesis that con- 
tent words, namely, nouns, verbs (except copulative and auxil- 
iary), descriptive adjectives, and descriptive adverbs, tend to 
influence difficulty by their intrinsic power of conveying ideas. 
On the other hand, structural words, namely, pronouns, copu- 
lative and auxiliary verbs, limiting adjectives, articles, limiting 
and conjunctive adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and inter- 
jections were believed to bear a negative relationship to diffi- 
culty since their scope of meaning is more nearly constant than 
is generally true of content words. 

Image-bearing and non-image-bearing words. The proposed 
subdivision of content words into those that produce images 
and those that do not was based on the assumption that image- 
bearing words increase comprehension through their expression 
of experience in the form of mental pictures. Although the enu- 
meration of image-bearing words is theoretically a simple mat- 
ter of cataloguing words that revive the memory of some sense 
impression, it is actually a far more complex undertaking. 
Clearly, the classification of a word as "image-bearing" or "non- 
image-bearing" is a matter of individual experience and there- 
fore subjective and unreliable. Furthermore, it seems evident 
that an image-bearing word not only may arouse a simple image 
but may combine with other words, each bringing its own train 
of associations to create a complex image. This circumstance 
obviously adds to the possibility of unreliable enumeration. 

Unless individual reactions can be obtained from each reader 
as to words which produce images and the number of images 
produced, any classification of words as image-bearing or non- 
image-bearing is quite certain to be inaccurate and unreliable. 

Words beginning with "<' "A," ' V "'V or "*," That 
words whose initial letter is ;, h, b> i y or e bear some relationship 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 105 

to difficulty is indicated by the findings of Lewerenz and of 
Dale and Tyler. 13 The former found that these words vary in 
number according to the ease or hardness of the material in 
which they occur. That is, words beginning with w, h, or b 
occur with comparative frequency in easy materials, whereas 
words beginning with i or e are relatively few. In difficult 
reading material the situation is reversed. Dale and Tyler found 
a significant relationship between the presence of words begin- 
ning with i in a given passage and its reading difficulty. Slight 
relationship was noted between words beginning with other 
"critical" letters and difficulty of technical passages in which 
the words occurred. 

Words associated with adult living. The opinion is sometimes 
offered that many so-called "difficult" words are quite familiar 
to the adult reader because they deal with the common affairs 
of adult life. Being familiar, they are not difficult. 14 The as- 
sumption seems tenable that contact with business and social 
life, as adults know it, results in an understanding of words the 
meaning of which is derived from such contact. The chief limi- 
tation in the use of this element lies in the fact that adult ex- 
periences cannot be defined in general terms to fit the unparticu- 
larized adult. Before this element can be investigated scientifi- 
cally, it is necessary to determine what are the common experi- 
ences of groups of adults classified according to age, sex, type of 
environment, amount of schooling, occupation, and so on. The 
next step is to ascertain how words associated with these ex- 
periences influence difficulty for various classes of readers. 

Words expressing abstractions, The assumption that abstract 
words complicate meaning grew out of certain observations rela- 
tive to differences between the language of very simple and very 
cultured people. The language of the former is characterized by 
a simple concrete vocabulary acquired naturally in direct con- 

Alfred S. Lewerenz, "Measurement of the Difficulty of Reading Materials," Los 
Angeles Educational Research Bulletin, VIII (March, 1929), 11-16; Dale and Tyler, 
ojp. cit. 

** Edward William Dolch, Reading and Word Meanings (Boston: Ginn & Co., 1927), 
pp. 50-51. 



106 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

tact with experience. The language of cultured people, on the 
other hand; contains words that represent generalizations and 
abstractions. Meanings of these words result from varied group- 
ings of experiences whose very difference enables their common 
elements to survive in isolation. 15 In repeating several trial 
counts of abstract words in a selection, we noted frequent in- 
accuracies, probably for the reason that as a person becomes 
familiar with the many connotations of an abstract word the 
quality of abstractness is gradually lost. It seems clear that 
unless a word can be defined precisely as an abstraction, it can- 
not be considered objectively measurable. 

Asides, appositives, and parenthetical expressions. Since ex- 
tremely elementary material tends to utilize words, phrases, and 
clauses of co-ordinate rank, it was believed that subordination 
of certain elements of a thought-unit would present difficulties 
for the reader of immature reading habits. 

Other expressional elements related to words. Other elements, 
numbered from 35 to 41 , inclusive, in Table XXVI were be- 
lieved to influence difficulty, on the assumption that words 
which have acquired meaning for persons in one environment 
may have relatively little significance for others. It seems prob- 
able that four of these elements can be selected from reading 
material with considerable accuracy. They are "dialect" words, 
which are sometimes italicized; "archaic" expressions and 
"rare" words, which can be recognized by their unusualness; 
"local" expressions and "coined" words, frequently indicated by 
quotation marks; and proper nouns pertaining to mythology 
and history. 

Other elements appear to be less easily recognized. For ex- 
ample, to designate a word as "highly literary" involves subjec- 
tive judgment and tends to result in unreliable enumeration. 
This element was rejected, therefore, despite the fact that Ayer 
has shown in her study of difficulties in reading history that 

*s C. K. Ogden and I. A, Richards, The Meaning of Meaning (New York: Harcourt, 
Brace & Co., 1927), p. 213. 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 107 

literary embellishments baffle comprehension for children. 16 An 
accurate enumeration of idiomatic expressions seems impos- 
sible, for the reason that they have become characteristic of our 
language and are not readily identified. They were rejected to- 
gether with technical words which presumably occur infrequent- 
ly in general, non-technical material. 

Length and kind of sentences. Studies of elementary-school 
readers indicate that authors of these books attempt to adapt 
materials to different grade levels by varying the length and 
complexity of sentences. For example, Harris found a constant 
increase in average length of sentences from the first to the sixth 
grades, although the amount of increase varied at different 
levels. 17 She also discovered a decrease in the number of simple 
sentences and an increase in the number of complex sentences 
over the same school period. A marked increase was further 
observed in the occurrence of compound and compound-com- 
plex sentences, although the percentage was smaller. 

Investigators who have attempted to determine the relation- 
ship between length and kind of sentences and difficulty of read- 
ing materials have reported findings that are not altogether 
consistent. In the field of adult reading, Dale and Tyler found 
a significant relationship between length of sentence in words 
and difficulty of comprehension of technical materials. The re- 
lationship was noticeable, though not statistically significant, 
between types of sentences and reading difficulty. McCluskey 
discovered relatively short sentences in books of easy fiction, 
but longer and more complex sentences in selections from psy- 
chology and physics. 

In the field of children's reading, Vogel and Washburne found 
simple sentences one of the most reliable indexes of easy reading 
material. Two other investigators, Orndorff and Thompson, 
agree that although a short sentence may require less effort to 

rf Adelaide M. Ayer, Some Difficulties in Elementary School History (New York: Bu- 
reau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1926), p. 10. 

J 7 Helen C. Harris, "The Development of Language Ability during the Elementary 
School Period." Unpublished Master's thesis, Dept. of Education, University of Chi- 
cago* I 93 < 5- Pp- 105- 



io8 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

read, sentence-length is of no consequence so far as comprehen- 
sion is concerned. 18 Their findings indicate that the effect upon 
the reader is the same, whether the sentence is long and involved 
or short, simple, and emphatic. Several weaknesses noted in 
OrndorfFs study probably tend to invalidate the findings. The 
number of cases is small. Speed is emphasized. The test ma- 
terials are unstandardized and too long for the attention-span 
of sixth-grade children. Using the same test twice in succession 
appears to be a further weakness. 

In Thompson's study, a probable weakness lies in the use of 
narrative material only. An examination of the selections used 
seems to show an overpotency of interest and excitement, which 
may so illuminate certain high spots in the reading as to give 
cues for desired responses to the tests. Had a second paragraph 
been added, the comprehension of which depended on the pu- 
pil's ability "to select, weigh, compare, and organize the ele- 
ments of the paragraph," 19 the results might have shown closer 
agreement with the more extensive studies cited earlier. 

Five measures of sentence-length were used in the present 
study. All of them may be measured objectively. The number 
of words in a sentence was the measure of length usually 
considered. Length expressed in number of syllables was also 
used on the assumption that a measure by component parts is 
more discriminative than a measure by the sum of an indefinite 
number of parts. Other measures of sentence-length that are 
variations of the same element include "maximum syllabic" 
length, that is, the length of the longest sentence; "minimum 
syllabic" length, that is, the length of the shortest sentence; and 
"range of syllabic" length, which refers to the number of syl- 
lables between the longest and the shortest sentence in a selec- 
tion. 

18 Bernice OrndorfF, "An Experiment to Show the Effect of Sentence Length upon 
Comprehension." Master's thesis, Dept. of Education, University of Iowa, 1925. Pp. 
80; Ruth Culver Thompson, "The Effect of Length of Sentence upon Comprehension/* 
Master's thesis, University of Pittsburgh, 1929. Pp. 40. 

x Edward L. Thorndike, "Reading as Reasoning," Journal of Educational PsychoL 
ogy> VIII (June, 1917), 329. 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 109 

Types of subordinate clauses. Variants in expression which 
represent types of subordinate clauses were suggested as prob- 
able indicators of difficulty. Subordinate clauses introduced by 
subordinate conjunctions that, so that, if, in order that and 
clauses introduced by conjunctive adverbs when, where, how 
involve a suspension of judgment as to the outcome of the 
sentence. It was believed that they would cause greater diffi- 
culty than subordinate clauses introduced by relative pronouns 
who, which,, that. 

Kinds of phrases. In the small and concrete vocabulary of 
very simple people, few phrases have been noted. This observa- 
tion led to the assumption that phrases complicate content and 
are, therefore, elements of difficulty. In their study of technical 
material, Dale and Tyler found that the presence of preposi- 
tional phrases increased its difficulty significantly, either by 
their effect on complexity of thought or on sentence-length. 
Vogel and Washburne found that the number of prepositions in 
a selection was one of the four best indicators of difficulty in 
children's books. 

The question of predication. Grammarians used to say that 
predication was the one essential condition in sentence-forma- 
tion. Either predication was expressed or it was implied in the 
context. The modern point of view is quite different. Predica- 
tion is no longer considered necessary. If it is actually expressed, 
we say that the sentence is "explicit/' If, on the other hand, 
elements of the sentence are omitted subject, predicate, modi- 
fiers and the thought-relationships only implied, the sentence 
is "implicit. 1 ' Disregard for predication is illustrated by the 
following brief passage, in which three out of five sentences 
leave elements to be supplied by the imagination of the reader: 

He wore overalls, sweater, an old felt hat. A man of the soil. Obviously. 
But his eyes; they were of the sky! Blue, searching, steady eyes. 20 

By analyzing selections for predication, we hoped to discover 
whether the expression or implication of thought-relationships 
influence difficulty in the same degree and in the same direction. 

80 Item No. ii, Form i, of the Adult Reading Test. 



no WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

Two other variants of expression were suggested by the ques- 
tion of predication. They concern different modes of predica- 
tion, namely, "dynamic" predication, which implies a change of 
condition; and "static" predication, which merely associates 
ideas without implying a change of condition. The one expresses 
a thought by the use of verbs of action in the active voice, while 
the other utilizes passive verbs and verbs expressing state or 
continuance. These two modes of expression are commonly con- 
sidered stylistic devices introduced for desired effects. It was 
believed, however, that one or the other might bear significant 
relationship to difficulty of comprehension. This hypothesis, 
like many others, had its origin in a study of the evolution 
of human speech. Research in this field shows that in prim- 
itive speech the dominant mode of predication employs action 
words, which bear the character of human mood and human 
will. 21 It may be assumed, therefore, that dynamic predica- 
tion promotes understanding more than does static predica- 
tion. 

What do the author V words mean? This question arises when 
understanding is based not alone on primary denotations of 
words but on associations introduced for the purpose of clarity, 
intensity, or enrichment. These associations are commonly re- 
ferred to as "figures of speech/* Whereas deficiencies in literal 
meaning may be remedied by the use of the dictionary or en- 
cyclopedia, obstacles to the understanding of figurative mean- 
ings associated with the same words are less readily remedied. 
On the assumption that figurative language influences the diffi- 
culty of reading, five figures of speech most common in general 
material were suggested as probable indicators of difficulty. 
They are simile, metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and per- 
sonification. 

Length of selection. There is some evidence that brevity of 
statement is essential to comprehension for the inexperienced 

21 Bronislaw Malmowski, 'The Problem of Meaning in Primitive Languages," cited 
in Ogden and Richards, The Meaning of Meaning (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 
> PP- 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY in 

reader. There is also evidence that it is the better reader who 
chooses large books, long chapters, or detailed treatises. Dale 
and Tyler report some relationship between the difficulty of 
technical material and the number of words contained therein. 
Although McCluskey reports a similar relationship, he con- 
cludes that the number of ideas in a selection is of less conse- 
quence in determining difficulty than is the quality of the ideas. 
The reliability of his conclusion depends for the most part on 
the accuracy with which the ideas were counted, since ideas 
probably cannot be counted with the same degree of objectivity 
as can words and sentences. 

Direct and indirect discourse. The assumption is generally 
made that quoting the words of another, either directly or in- 
directly, tends to make a selection more easily comprehended. 
It seems probable that direct discourse is more closely related 
to ease than is indirect discourse. The greater understanding is 
explained by the fact that in reading the former, a reader tem- 
porarily projects himself into another personality and expresses 
his sentiments and ideas. Hence he may gain greater under- 
standing of their meanings. 

Types of narration, 22 Literary criticism, when directed 
toward the structure of a novel or a story, recognizes various 
techniques utilized by the author to produce desired effects. 
They may be techniques of narration "scenic," "pictorial," 
"panoramic," and "dramatic." The first three terms seem to be 
used interchangeably to describe a single type of narration. 
They refer to the author's attempt to portray a scene without 
action, merely by reflecting events and pictures upon his read- 
er's consciousness. Let him, however, take from the scene its 
suggestion of dialogue, its people, their dress, their actions all 
the actual things which he has described and place them on a 
stage, so to speak, and he produces a new effect. He has intro- 
duced dramatic narration. 

32 Percy Lubbock, The Craft of Fiction, New York: Jonathan Cape and Harrison 
Smith, the Traveller's Library, 1929. Pp. 277; Ralph Philip Boas, The Study and Ap- 
preciation of Literature (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1931), p. 152. 



ii2 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

For the most part, narration is a question of the reader's rela- 
tion to the author. By the scenic method the reader is placed 
face to face with the story-teller, to listen to him report a scene. 
By the other, the reader is turned toward the story to watch its 
action. The hypothesis seems warranted that the conversation- 
al, active, dramatic method of narration should be less difficult 
to comprehend than the method which leaves the passive reader 
to make what he can of a narrated event. 

Literary criticism, however, is seldom mathematically exact. 
Hence it is difficult to define the two methods so sharply that 
inaccuracies of classification will be obviated. 

Presentation of character. Two stylistic devices which were 
suggested as indexes of difficulty relate to a story-teller's meth- 
od of presenting character. The first involves the use of physi- 
cal associations. This method is found in the older type of novel. 
It depicts a character by the use of sense impressions and ex- 
periences drawn from the physical environment. It is believed 
to promote better understanding than the modern method of 
developing a character by the presentation of his psychic life 
his thoughts, impulses, and emotions. There is a straightfor- 
wardness about the first method that gives tangibility to a 
character, while in the second there is an evasiveness that 
admits of little substance. It seems probable, therefore, that 
readers of low ability may experience more difficulty in under- 
standing portrayal of character by the latter method than by 
the former. 

Techniques of paragraph-development. The last seven ele- 
ments listed in Table XXVI relate to an author's technique of 
developing paragraphs. He may present a sequence of ideas to 
show cause or effect. He may develop an idea deductively or 
inductively. He may enumerate ideas to show both cause and 
effect, or repeat an idea for emphasis, or develop it from a topic 
sentence. In considering each of these techniques we have as- 
sumed that some of them promote comprehension and others 
retard it. 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 113 

SELECTION OF ELEMENTS TO RETAIN FOR 
EXPERIMENTATION 

The statement has been made earlier that lack of evidence 
relating to elements of difficulty in general reading materials 
demands that the person who is interested in this field of investi- 
gation remain open-minded toward expressional elements that 
suggest some influence on difficulty. Consequently, the selec- 
tion of elements listed in Table XXVI for further study de- 
pended primarily on preciseness of definition and objectivity 
of measurement. 

Elements which seem to defy objective measurement in- 
clude: image-bearing and non-image-bearing words, words as- 
sociated with adult living, abstractions, poetic and highly liter- 
ary words, scenic and dramatic narration, and physical and 
psychic associations. Consequently, they were rejected from 
the present study. Technical words were classified in the gen- 
eral category of hard words. Elements representing the classifi- 
cation of words according to function, with the exception of per- 
sonal pronouns and prepositions, were rejected in favor of ele- 
ments representing classifications of words according to mean- 
ing and association. The remaining sixty-four elements, which 
survived critical examination, were retained for further experi- 
mentation. These elements are indicated by asterisks in Table 
XXVI. 

Use of the compiled elements. Although considerable evidence 
has been reported to indicate that certain of the elements bear 
some relation to difficulty, it has been obtained principally in 
the field of children's reading or in the field of technical reading 
on the adult level. Evidence is contradictory or wholly lacking 
concerning other elements. In any case, the influence of a spe- 
cific element on difficulty cannot merely be assumed to exist for 
general reading material. Accordingly, each element in the table 
was considered no more than a potential element of difficulty 
until its relationship to a criterion of difficulty could be calcu- 
lated. As previously stated, the criterion accepted in the present 



1 1 4 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

study was the average reading score of adult readers on Forms i 
and a of the Adult Reading Test. 

Determining the occurrence of each element in the various 
test items involved a simple count of each element. This was 
expressed as a numerical total or as a percentage. Of the sixty- 
four elements used in the study, forty-four occurred one or 
more times in at least half of the test items. A less frequent oc- 
currence was considered inadequate for correlation. The rejec- 
tion of the other twenty elements leaves their influence on diffi- 
culty an open question. Whether their occurrence in an occa- 
sional test item tended to increase the difficulty of that item 
remains to be determined. Limitation of time and effort would 
not permit extension of the study to include a larger number of 
items containing these twenty elements. 

CORRELATING THE CRITERION OF DIFFICULTY WITH POTEN- 
TIAL ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY IN THE TEST ITEMS 

In accordance with the plan outlined earlier, a series of cor- 
relations was calculated to show the relationship between the 
elements in the test items and the average reading score of 756 
adult readers. Since the primary purpose of the study was to de- 
termine elements of difficulty in general reading material, the 
forty-eight items in the two tests were combined into a single 
series for purposes of correlation. 

The first column in Table XXVII presents the coefficients of 
correlation obtained when the average reading score of all adults 
was taken as the criterion of difficulty. If the 756 adults tested 
are fairly representative of the general reading public, then ele- 
ments identified by using their average score may be regarded 
as elements of difficulty for the general reader. The second col- 
umn in the table shows the relationship between the elements in 
the test items and the average reading scores of the "best" 
readers. They were the readers whose combined scores on Forms 
I and a of the adult test ranked above the third quartile. Their 
average score was a criterion of the difficulty which they ex- 
perienced in reading the test paragraphs. In the third column 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 115 



TABLE XXVII 

CORRELATIONS BETWEEN FORTY-FOUR POTENTIAL ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY 

AND THE AVERAGE SCORE OF EACH TEST ITEM FOR THREE 

CLASSIFICATIONS OF ADULT SUBJECTS 



NUM- 
BER 


ELEMENT 


CORRELATION COEFFICIENTS 


All Readers 


"Best" 
readers 


"Poorest" 
Readers 


r P.E. 


r P.E. 


r P.E. 


i 
i 

3 

4 
6 

7 
8 

9 

10 

ii 

12 
13 

H 

II 

17 
18 

19 

20 

21 

22 

*3 
2 4 


Average sentence-length in words 
Percentage of easy words 


.522i .0708 

.520+ .0710 

-.5I 3 . 0717 
.511+. 0719 
-.496 -0734 

--49I -0739 
.482 .0747 

.4761.0753 
-.4741.0755 

-.472+ .0757 
433^79 I 

.431 -0793 

.402! .0816 
.390 .0825 
-.3801.0833 
-.380+ .0833 
-.345- 8 5 8 

.329! ,0868 

-.321 .0873 
.291 .0891 

.283 .0896 
.261 .0907 
.261 .0907 
.235 .0920 


--43 1 1-0793 
.27i .0902 

.21 8 .0927 
.292+ .0891 
.1911.0938 

-.481 .0748 

.380+ .0833 
.3471.0856 
-.3021.0885 

.289! .0892 
.1661.0947 

.3371.0863 

-.2271.0923 
.389! .0826 
.1811.0942 
-.0771.0968 
.0621.0970 

.1501.0952 

.1141.0961 
-.0751.0968 

.0501.0971 
-.1731.0944 

173 1.0944 
.1201.0960 


-.4491-0777 
.5291.0701 

-.55l- 6 79 
.518! .0712 
-.543i-o686 

-.4061.0813 
.419! .0803 

.450! .0776 
.4071.0812 

-.457 1.0770 
.4881.0742 

.3711.0840 

.4091.0811 
.2981.0887 
-.4411.0784 
-.4281.0795 
-.37i-o 8 4 

.3071.0882 

.2791.0898 
-.3671.0842 

.2711.0902 
-.2321.0921 
.2321.0921 
.2851.0894 


Number of words not known to 
90 per cent of sixth-grade pu- 
pils .,..'. 


Number of easy words 


Number of different hard words 
Minimum syllabic sentence- 
length 


Number of explicit sentences. . . 
Number of first-, second-, and 
third-person pronouns 


Maximum syllabic sentence- 
length 


Average sentence-length in syl- 
lables 


Percentage of monosyllables . . . 
Number of sentences per para- 

crraDh 


Percentage of different words 
not known to 90 per cent of 
sixth-grade pupils 


Number of simple sentences 
Percentage of different words. . 
Percentage of polysyllables 
Number of prepositional phrases 
Number of third-person pro- 
nouns 


Range of syllabic sentence 
length 


Number of different words 
Number of infinitive and prepo- 


Percentage of content words. . . 
Percentage of structural words. 
Number of i words 





ii6 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

TABLE XXVII Continued 



NUM- 
BER 


ELEMENT 


CORRELATION COEFFICIENTS 


All Readers 


"Best" 

Readers 


"Poorest" 
Readers 


r P.E. 


r P.E. 


r P.E. 


*5 
26 
27 

28 
29 
3 
3i 

32 
33 
34 

3 I 
36 

37 

38 
39 

40 

41 
42 

43 
44 


Number of figures of speech. . . . 
Percentage of complex sentences 
Number of compound-complex 
sentences 


.2331.0921 

.229 .0922 
.205 .0933 

I99-0935 
i94l.937 
i93-937 
~.I93 -0937 
.1831.0941 
.180+ .0942 

,160! .0949 
.1461.0953 

.141 .0954 

.117! .0960 
-.0971.0964 

.0911.0965 
.069! .0969 
-.0651.0969 

.060! .0970 
.0541.0971 
-.0091.0973 


.088! .0966 
-.3591.0848 

.2491.0913 
.038! .0972 
.272! .0902 
.0061.0974 
.1891.0939 
.0511.0971 
.2781.0898 

-.1981.0935 
.045-97 a 

*94-937 

.0281.0973 
.0791.0967 

.1681.0946 
004! .0974 
,1981.0935 

.114! .0961 
-.0181.0973 
.070! .0969 


-377 -0835 
-.0931.0965 

1381.0955 
.300! .0886 
.mi .0962 
.255! .0910 
-.1871.0939 
.168! .0946 
.0961.0965 

~.i77-943 
.1271.0958 

.0661 .0969 

.2341.0920 
.2111.0930 

.060! ,0970 
.093! .0965 
-.153 -0951 

.0231,0973 
.0191.0973 
.0751.0968 


Number of infinitive phrases. . . 
Number of first-person pronouns 
Number of complex sentences. . 
Percentage of bisyllables 


Number of h words 


Percentage of simple sentences. 
Number of clauses introduced 
by subordinate conjunctions. 
Number of w words . . . . 


Number of compound and com- 
pound-complex sentences. . . . 
Number of clauses introduced 
by relative pronouns 


Number of asides 


Total number of words per para- 
graph 


Number of b words 


Number of e words 


Percentage of compound-com- 
plex sentences 


Number of clauses introduced 
by conjunctive adverbs 


Percentage of compound and 
compound-complex sentences 



of the table are shown the coefficients obtained when the ele- 
ments were correlated with the average reading scores of 
"poorest" readers, that is, of those individuals whose combined 
scores ranked below the first quartile. The average scores of this 
group represented the difficulty which the paragraphs held for 
its members. A comparison of the three series of correlations 
indicates whether an element of expression which influences 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 117 

difficulty for "poorest" readers influences difficulty to the same 
degree for "best" readers, when each is isolated and when all 
readers are combined. 

In the interpretation of the coefficients in Table XXVII, one 
needs to remember that the higher the average score on an item 
the greater the group comprehension. High scores indicate items 
easily comprehended and low scores indicate items difficult to 
comprehend. It follows, therefore, in the use of these scores for 
correlation, that a negative coefficient means that the element 
is positively correlated with difficulty. A positive correlation, 
on the other hand, means that the element is negatively corre- 
lated with difficulty. Stated in more simple terms, a negative 
coefficient designates an element of difficulty; a positive coeffi- 
cient 3 an element of ease. 

The amount of correlation is indicated by the size of the cor- 
relation coefficient. All of the correlations may seem low, as one 
commonly thinks of correlation, yet their significance is to be 
interpreted in the light of their relative size rather than their 
absolute size. Of the correlations listed in the table, only the 
first twenty-one are statistically significant, since a coefficient 
must be at least .27 to be three times its probable error. Actu- 
ally, however, if the occurrence of an element has even a small 
numerical relationship to difficulty, nothing can seemingly justi- 
fy indifference to it, since unquestionably the relationship didn't 
"just happen." 

WHAT ELEMENTS INFLUENCE DIFFICULTY OF GENERAL 

READING MATERIALS FOR DIFFERENT 

CLASSES OF READERS? 

We are now ready to answer one of the questions which this 
chapter aimed to answer. The final evidence for identifying ele- 
ments of difficulty is found in the table just presented. In using 
the relationships listed in the table for this purpose, we are as- 
suming a causal relationship which by the nature of a limited 
investigation may not be altogether valid. Inasmuch as all fac- 
tors have not been controlled, it is possible, though hardly prob- 



ii8 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

able, that the relationships may be accounted for by some other 
factor operating throughout. One may argue, for example, that 
personal pronouns are related to difficulty in a negative direc- 
tion because they occur in content which an author presents 
directly. Hence, it is the direct presentation that is the indi- 
cator of ease and not the personal pronouns. The shortcomings 
of a series of findings based on partially controlled procedures 
have already been admitted in chapter i. It is in the light of 
these shortcomings that elements of difficulty are identified. 

A cursory examination of entries in Table XXVII shows that 
in general the hypothesis set up at the outset of the study is 
valid, namely, that elements representing simplicity of expres- 
sion correlate in the direction of ease, and that those represent- 
ing complex, involved expression correlate in the direction of 
difficulty. Some exceptions to this observation may be noted. 
For example, we had assumed that complex and compound- 
complex sentences are indicators of difficulty, since they repre- 
sent involved thought-patterns. Such was found to be true, 
however, only when their percentage of occurrence among all 
kinds of sentences was considered. 

Interesting outcomes resulted from analyzing these sentences 
with respect to the nature of their subordinate clauses. Then it 
was found that clauses introduced by relative pronouns are 
slight indicators of ease. Clauses introduced by conjunctive ad- 
verbs give some indication of difficulty. Clauses introduced by 
subordinate conjunctions are indexes of difficulty to a greater 
degree and for all classes of readers. It appears from this evi- 
dence that mere complexity of sentence-form has less influence 
on difficulty than may be presumed. Moreover, the influence 
is less than particular modes used in effecting subordination. It 
appears also that subordinate clauses which delay comprehen- 
sion by setting up restrictions of manner, degree, and condition 
offer greater difficulty for all classes of readers than do other 
types of subordinate clauses. They are the ones, then, that 
should be used infrequently in preparing material for readers of 
limited ability. 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 119 

When the average reading score of all adults was taken as the 
criterion of difficulty, twenty-three elements were discovered 
with a relationship to difficulty ranging from .522 for average 
sentence-length in words to .009 for percentage of compound 
and compound-complex sentences. Nineteen elements were 
found to correlate positively with difficulty for "best" readers. 
These are indicated in the second column of Table XXVII by 
negative coefficients ranging from 481 for minimum syllabic 
sentence-length to .018 for clauses introduced by conjunctive 
adverbs. Twenty-four elements of difficulty were found for 
"poorest" readers. The coefficients of correlation range from 
.550 for number of words not known to 90 per cent of sixth- 
grade pupils to .019 for clauses introduced by conjunctive 
adverbs. 

Most of the elements which show relatively low correlation 
with difficulty occurred in no more than half the test items. 
This was the minimal occurrence set up arbitrarily for correla- 
tion. For example, number of asides, correlating positively with 
difficulty for all but "best" readers, occurred in only twenty- 
eight of the forty-eight test items. Furthermore, the occur- 
rence in each item was low, ranging between i and 3. A simi- 
larly restricted representation was noted for compound-complex 
sentences, different kinds of subordinate clauses, figures of 
speech, infinitive phrases, and first-person pronouns. 

If we speculate on how much significance should be attached 
to a low correlation when only a few elements are involved, it 
seems evident that it has little or no potency beyond the sug- 
gestion that a relationship exists. The assumption seems tenable 
that a more significant relationship might have been discovered 
had these elements occurred as frequently as did monosyllables, 
for example. On the other hand, if the materials used as sources 
of test items are fairly representative of what adults are read- 
ing, we may infer that elements found in them tend to occur 
with a frequency that is "normal" for general materials. That 
is to say, although asides, for example, might have correlated 
more closely with difficulty had they occurred in a larger num- 



i ao WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

ber of items or with greater frequency in a few items, it is pos- 
sible that their occurrence represents what is usual in general 
reading material. If such is the case, then the correlations given 
in Table XXVII presumably signify not far from the true rela- 
tionship between expressional elements and difficulty of general 
materials. 

One may assume, therefore, that the normal, occasional oc- 
currence of some elements may contribute to difficulty, yet 
their influence be too slight and their occurrence too infrequent 
to command serious consideration. Further study is needed be- 
fore this assumption can be verified. 

A comparison of the three series of correlations in Table 
XXVII shows the extent to which expressional elements agree 
in their relationship to difficulty for different classes of readers. 
For example, elements pertaining to sentence-structure corre- 
late more closely with difficulty for "best" readers than do other 
elements. For "poorest" readers, on the other hand, elements 
of vocabulary correlate most closely with difficulty. 

It is apparent from the size of the coefficients that the amount 
of correlation tends to vary in the direction of increasing diffi- 
culty for "poorest" readers, and that elements which correlate 
either positively or negatively with difficulty tend to be of least 
consequence for "best" readers. In other words, an expressional 
element, such as percentage of different words, is an element of 
difficulty for all classes, but its relation to difficulty is markedly 
more significant for "poorest" readers. Again, percentage of 
easy words tends to reduce the difficulty of a selection for all 
classes, but its influence is greatest for "poorest" readers. 

In Tables XXVIII, XXIX, and XXX are listed the forty- 
four elements of difficulty in their order of significance for dif- 
ferent classes of readers. As might be expected, more elements 
are significantly correlated with difficulty in either a positive or 
a negative direction for "poorest" than for "best" readers. 
"Significant" elements, that is, those which correlate with diffi- 
culty to a degree of .ij or higher, number twenty-four for 
"poorest" readers and thirteen for "best" readers. Elements of 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 121 



little significance, that is, those whose correlation with difficulty 
is below .11, number nine for "poorest" and fourteen for "best" 

TABLE XXVIII 
SIGNIFICANCE OF ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY FOR ALL READERS 



Elements of Greatest 
Significance 


Elements of Some 
Significance 


Elements of Little 
Significance 


Average sentence-length in 


Percentage of content 


Number of asides 


words 


words 


Total number of words per 


Percentage of easy words 


Percentage of structural 


paragraph 


Number of words not known 


words 


Number of b words 


to 90 per cent sixth-grade 


Number of i words 


Number of e words 


pupils 


Number of figures of speech 


Percentage of compound- 


Number of easy words 


Percentage of complex sen- 


complex sentences 


Minimum syllabic sentence- 


tences 


Number of clauses intro- 


length 


Number of compound- 


duced by conjunctive 


Number of explicit sentences 


complex sentences 


adverbs 


Number of first-, second-, 


Number of infinitive 


Percentage of compound 


and third-person pronouns 


phrases 


and compound-complex 


Maximum syllabic sentence- 


Number of first-person pro- 


sentences 


length 


nouns 




Average sentence-length in 


Number of complex sen- 




syllables 


tences 




Percentage of monosyllables 


Percentage of bisyllables 




Number of sentences per 


Number of h words 




paragraph 


Percentage of simple sen- 




Percentage of different 


tences 




words not known to 90 


Number of clauses intro- 




per cent of sixth-grade 


duced by subordinate 




pupils 


conjunctions 




Number of simple sentences 


Number of w words 




Percentage of different words 


Number of compound and 




Percentage of polysyllables 


compound-complex sen- 




Number of prepositional 


tences 




phrases 


Number of clauses intro- 




Number of third-person pro- 


duced by relative pro- 




nouns 


nouns 




Range of syllabic sentence- 






length 






Number of different words 






Number of infinitive and 






prepositional phrases 







readers. It is clear that more elements need to be taken into 
account when selecting or preparing reading matter for limited 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



readers than for superior readers. Furthermore, the elements 
mean considerably more for the former group than for the latter, 
as has been indicated by the coefficients in Table XXVII. 

TABLE XXIX 
SIGNIFICANCE OF ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY FOR "BEST" READERS 



Elements of Greatest 
Significance 


Elements of Some 
Significance 


Elements of Little 
Significance 


Minimum syllabic sentence- 


Number of compound- 


Number of figures of 


length 


complex sentences 


speech 


Average sentence-length in 


Percentage of different 


Percentage of polysyl- 


words 


words not known to 90 


lables 


Number of simple sentences 


per cent of sixth-grade 


Number of different words 


Number of explicit sentences 


pupils 


Number of asides 


Percentage of complex sen- 


Number of clauses intro- 


Percentage of compound 


tences 


duced by subordinate 


and compound-complex 


Number of first-, second-. 


conjunctions 


sentences 


and third-person pronouns 


Number of e words 


Number of prepositional 


Number of sentences per 


Number of compound and 


phrases 


paragraph 


compound-complex sen- 


Number of h words 


Maximum syllabic sentence- 


tences 


Number of infinitive and 


length 


Number of different hard 


prepositional phrases 


Number of easy words 


words 


Number of w words 


Average sentence-length in 


Percentage of bisyllables 


Number of infinitive 


syllables 


Percentage of different 


phrases 


Percentage of simple sen- 


words 


Number of clauses intro- 


tences 


Percentage of content 


duced by conjunctive 


Number of first-person pro- 


words 


adverbs 


nouns 


Percentage of structural 


Number of complex sen- 


Percentage of easy words 


words 


tences 




Total number of words 


Number of b words 




per paragraph 






Percentage of monosyl- 






lables 






Number of third-person 






pronouns 






Number of i words 






Range of syllabic sentence- 






length 






Percentage of compound- 






complex sentences 





When the differences between the coefficients of correlation 
for any two classes of readers are examined statistically, it is 
found that the most significant difference occurred in figures of 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 123 

speech. The difference in difficulty exerted by this element for 
"best" and for "poorest" readers is 3.64 times its probable 

TABLE XXX 
SIGNIFICANCE OP ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY FOR "POOREST" READERS 



Elements of Greatest 
Significance 



Elements of Some 
Significance 



Elements of Little 
Significance 



Number of words not known to 
90 per cent of sixth-grade pupils 
Number of different hard words 
Percentage of easy words 
Number of easy words 
Percentage of monosyllables 
Average sentence-length in syl- 
lables 

Average sentence-length in words 
Number of first-, second-, and 

third-person pronouns 
Percentage of different words 
Percentage of polysyllables 
Number of explicit sentences 
Percentage of different words not 
known to 90 per cent of sixth- 
grade pupils 

Maximum syllabic sentence-length 
Minimum syllabic sentence-length 
Number of figures of speech 
Number of sentences per para- 
graph 

Number of prepositional phrases 
Number of different words 
Number of third-person pro- 
nouns 

Number of infinitive phrases 
Number of simple sentences 
Number of * words 
Range of syllabic sentence-length 
Number of infinitive and preposi- 
tional phrases 



Number of complex 
sentences 

Number of clauses in- 
troduced by relative 
pronouns 

Percentage of structur- 
al words 

Number of asides 

Percentage of bisyl- 
lables 

Number of clauses in- 
troduced by subor- 
dinate conjunctions 

Number of h words 

Number of e words 

Number of compound- 
complex sentences 

Number of w words 



Number of first-person 
pronouns 

Percentage of simple 
sentences 

Percentage of complex 
sentences 

Number of I words 

Percentage of compound 
and compound-com- 
plex sentences 

Total number of words 
per paragraph 

Percentage of com- 
pound-complex sen- 
tences 

Number of clauses in- 
troduced by conjunc- 
tive adverbs 



error. A difference of slightly less significance statistically is 
noted for different hard words. This difference is 3.03 times its 
probable error. 

Despite the fact that the difference in relationship of many 



124 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

elements to difficulty is not statistically significant for "best" 
and "poorest" readers, it seems large enough for practical im- 
plications. For example, percentage of easy words, number of 
words not known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade pupils, percent- 
age of monosyllables, percentage of polysyllables, number of 
prepositional phrases, and number of/ words are related to diffi- 
culty in the same direction for "best" as for "poorest" readers, 
but in an amount considerably less. One may infer from a com- 
parison of these relationships that reading ability ultimately 
may reach a level at which comprehension is uninfluenced by 
the author's mode of expression. Before that level can be iden- 
tified, it is necessary to discover how well adults who are better 
readers than our "best" are able to read general reading mate- 
rials. If we find little or no relationship between their compre- 
hension and the occurrence of structural elements in the pas- 
sages read, then we may conclude that for such readers diffi- 
culty cannot be measured by elements of structure. Presum- 
ably other aspects should be considered in selecting and pre- 
paring materials which they will find readable. For the less ma- 
ture reader at lower levels of efficiency, however, the quality of 
ease or difficulty apparently is of considerable importance in de- 
termining whether or not a book is readable. 

A COMPARISON OF THE FINDINGS WITH THOSE OF 
SIMILAR INVESTIGATIONS 

In comparing elements of difficulty as they have been defined 
in related studies, we have included only those studies which 
utilized an experimental procedure similar to the one reported 
in this chapter. Three seem comparable to the present investi- 
gation. The first, by Vogel and Washburne, laid the foundation 
for an objective determination of elements of difficulty in chil- 
dren's literature. The second, by Dale and Tyler, is a scientific 
attack on the problem of difficulty of technical material. The 
third, by Ojemann, is a study of the reading ability of parents 
and of factors associated with reading difficulty of materials 
used for parent education. All the studies identify elements of 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 125 

difficulty in terms of coefficients of correlation. The relative 
influence of different elements rather than the actual influence 
is used in comparing the present findings with those obtained 
from the other three. The reason for this is that the range of 
correlation varies for the different studies. 

Elements of difficulty as defined by all studies generally cor- 
relate more closely with difficulty for children than for adults. 
The same elements correlate less closely with difficulty of tech- 
nical materials for adults than with difficulty of general adult 
reading matter. This latter correlation, in turn, is less than for 
materials used in parent education. For example, easy words, 
based on Thorndike's first 1,000, has a correlation of .674 with 
difficulty of children's reading and of .640 with difficulty of par- 
ent-education materials. Percentage of easy words, based on 
Thorndike's first 1,000 and the Kindergarten Word-List, cor- 
relates .520 with difficulty of general reading material and .352 
with difficulty of technical materials. 

It is important to note that the best indicator of difficulty of 
general materials for "poorest" readers is the second-best indi- 
cator of difficulty of technical materials and of parent-educa- 
tion materials. This element, number of words not known to 90 
per cent of sixth-grade pupils, correlates .550 with difficulty 
of general books, magazines, and newspapers; .380 with diffi- 
culty of technical reading in the field of health; and .730 with 
difficulty of subject matter dealing with parent education. It 
seems equally important to observe that in all types of adult 
reading studied, complexity of sentence-form, as measured by 
occurrence of complex sentences, bears a relatively low relation- 
ship to difficulty. On the other hand, simplicity of sentence- 
form, as measured by the presence of simple sentences, is a sig- 
nificant indicator of ease in all adult materials. 

Three elements of the fifteen which correlate most closely 
with difficulty of general materials for "poorest" readers are 
common to all types of material They include number of dif- 
ferent hard words, number of prepositional phrases, and num- 
ber of different words. Four others are common to the various 



126 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

types of adult material studied. They are number of words not 
known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade pupils, percentage of mono- 
syllables, percentage of easy words, and average sentence- 
length in words. These seven elements, then, may be thought 
of as elements most closely related to difficulty of adult materi- 
als generally. Of less significance are percentage of complex sen- 
tences, percentage of compound-complex sentences, number of 
first-person pronouns, and percentage of compound and com- 
pound-complex sentences. 

WHAT ELEMENTS IN GENERAL READING SHALL BE USED 
IN ESTIMATING DIFFICULTY? 

The practical importance of identifying elements of difficulty 
lies in their usefulness in determining what materials are easy 
or difficult for adults to read and understand. Inasmuch as the 
results of 1 this study are intended primarily to benefit adults of 
limited reading ability, it seems desirable to determine diffi- 
culty of material for such readers. "Poorest" readers, that is, 
adults whose combined scores on Forms I and a of the Adult 
Reading Test ranked below the first quartile, have been taken 
as representative of readers of limited ability. Elements of diffi- 
culty for this group are shown in Table XXVII on pages 1 15-16. 

Since the "poorest" readers numbered but 190, the question 
may be raised as to whether this number is an adequate sample 
of total population which they are taken to represent. We have 
accordingly obtained a reliability coefficient by splitting the 
group into random halves and correlating the average score on 
each test item calculated for the two half-groups. The coefficient 
of correlation thus obtained is .8221 +.0316. Prediction by the 
Spearman-Brown prophecy formula 23 gives a probable correla- 
tion of .9024+ .0181 between two groups, each of which is simi- 
lar in size to the entire group of "poorest" readers. 

*s The Spearman-Brown formula is stated; 



(Holzinger, Statistical Methods for Students in Education^ p. 169.) 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 127 

Evidence has been frequently adduced which points to the 
variability among reliability coefficients obtained by the split- 
halves technique. In view of this evidence, the group was again 
split into random halves and a second index of reliability com- 
puted, as before. This time, a correlation of .9254^.0140 was 
found between the half-groups, and a probable correlation of 
.9613 .0074 by application of the Spearman-Brown formula. 
Since the difference between the two coefficients, .0589, is sig- 
nificant by the accepted test of significant differences, it seems 
likely that neither can be taken as an absolute index of the re- 
liability of the group sampled. Furthermore, there is no reason 
to assume that the extremes of the possible range of coefficients 
are represented by .9024 and .9613. The homogeneity of the 
group so far as reading ability is concerned leads to the assump- 
tion, however, that either coefficient may be taken as reasonably 
reliable. The size of either coefficient seems large enough to jus- 
tify accepting the average reading scores attained by 190 se- 
lected readers as fairly reliable indexes of the difficulty which 
would be experienced by a larger group of adults of similar 
reading ability. 

Table XXVII shows that the factor most closely correlated 
with difficulty for "poorest" readers is the number of words in 
a selection not known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade pupils. The 
factor next most closely related to difficulty is the number of 
different hard words in a selection. Further, the percentage of 
easy words and the number of easy words in a selection are 
about as closely correlated with difficulty,, although in an oppo- 
site direction. Some of the factors show little relation to diffi- 
culty of comprehension. If the selections studied are typical 
of the general reading material of adults, these factors do not 
generally influence its difficulty. 

Table XXVII also shows that twenty-four expressional ele- 
ments are significantly correlated with difficulty of general read- 
ing materials of the sort used in the test items, that is, of gen- 
eral magazines, newspapers, and books. Each of these elements 
may, therefore, be taken as an indicator of the difficulty of 



128 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



similar material, when difficulty is measured by the occurrence 
of structural elements. Furthermore, a combination of all ele- 
ments may be expected to give the best prediction of difficulty. 
But, obviously, twenty-four are too many to take into account, 

TABLE XXXI 

CORRELATIONS OP SIGNIFICANT ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY WITH 
AVERAGE READING SCORE AND WITH EACH OTHER 





READ- 
ING 
SCORE 


SIGNIFICANT ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY* 


i 


2 


3 


4 


5 


6 


7 


8 


9 


10 


II 


Read ing Score 


I. OOO 


- 550 


--S43 


.529 


.518 


.488 


-.457 


450 


-449 


-.441 


-.428 


.419 


Elements* 
i 






.876 


-.804 
-.963 


-.847 
-.890 
952 


-.833 
-.819 
.836 
.804 


.660 
-SS8 
-.573 

=:S? 


- 713 
- 539 
612 
593 

593 
- 659 


-485 

-:S 

i:S 
.910 
-.640 


424 
.598 
-.559 
-.585 
-.399 
.171 
-.190 
.076 


.801 
-740 
-743 
.702 
-.861 
.687 

349 


-.463 
.362 
.421 
439 

-:g 

-.434 








3 






























|.. ....... 














7 
















8 














































































































rj 


























*4 








































































































18 .. 


























19 


























20 




















































22 




















































24. 


























Mean 


0.87 
0-57 


9-83 

6.21 


26.12 
9.28 


74-06 
8.07 


83.81 
10.31 


70,92 
6.99 


27.31 
11.85 


9-54 
5.96 


19.24 
7.09 


64.73 
5.06 


10.67 
6.26 


6.50 
2.6l 


S.D 





* Significant elements of difficulty: 

1. Number of words not known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade pupils. 

2. Number of different hard words. 

3. Percentage of easy words. 

4. Number of easy words. 

5. Percentage of monosyllables. 

6. Average sentence-length in syllables. 

7. Number of firat-, second-, and third-person pronouns. 

8. Average sentence-length in words. 

9. Perceatage of different words. 

10. Perceatage of polysyllables. 

11. Number of explicit sentences. 

especially since the most significant elements frequently meas- 
ure approximately the same thing. For example, number of easy 
words and percentage of easy words are merely two ways of 
measuring the same element. Similarly, number of words not 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 129 

known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade pupils and number of dif- 
ferent hard words both measure hardness of vocabulary. In such 
cases it is apparent that the number may be reduced by using 
only one of two closely related elements. 

The usual method of discovering how much relationship exists 
among a group of elements is that of intercorrelation. By this 

TABLE XXXI Continued 



SIGNIFICANT ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY 



12 


13 


14 


IS 


16 


17 


18 


19 


20 


21 


22 


23 


24 


-.409 


-.407 


-.406 


-.377 


371 


-.370 


-.367 


-307 


-300 


.298 


-.285 


-.279 


-.271 


877 

.668 
.719 
-.708 
-.685 
555 

" : f 
III 

--4S9 


&' 

-:j 

=:! 

.810 
-.632 
.794 

.2X8 

577 
-.703 
.478 


.414 
.294 
-.287 
-.276 
-.404 
.809 
-.523 

:% 

-:JSS 

.380 


.413 
.442 
-.387 

= I 

-.304 
.173 
-054 
.350 

.112 
.284 


437 
--3I5 
375 
.4" 
411 

-& 

.810 
-.041 
-.414 
-977 


.506 
.516 
-.509 
-.467 
-.499 

-:% 
:S8 

.429 
-.5" 
.405 


.404 
.603 
-.507 
-.408 
-37| 
.188 
-.143 

7 i 
.896 

354 
.015 

.310 


-.454 
-.380 
39S 
431 
.400 
-.402 
.556 
-.390 
-.327 
-340 
319 
.340 


-.179 
-.275 
.262 
.241 
.136 
-.171 
.087 

-135 
-.203 
-.115 
.000 
.039 


-.240 
-.187 
.223 
.209 
.247 
-.692 
.427 
--775 
-.043 
-.309 
.824 
-.268 


-094 
.088 
--OSI 

-.073 
.206 

.167 

.150 

.188 
.240 
.156 

.092 
.075 


.565 
.612 
-593 
-.521 

-.82 

-.510 
550 
.225 
SIS 

"IS 


-458 
433 
-.431 
-.395 
-.467 
.440 
-455 
40S 
035 
.402 
-.S3J 
.406 






.552 


JflT 


g . 


1* 


.267 


- 426 


.003 


.550 




.899 


,463 








O48 


666 


?8T 


.060 


.334 


.173 


.721 


276 


.195 


.227 








"*" 


- 088 


443 


.128 


- 048 


.335 


.034 


068 


389 


334 












.501 


.080 


297 


.026 


777 


-.086 


-.468 


530 














.069 


*99 


.283 


-.266 


.325 


.411 


933 
















.341 


.140 


.023 


.204 


.299 


.019 


















.176 


.155 


""243 


342 


.141 




















.059 


.US 


.060 


.082 






















.119 


3*7 


.255 
























.043 


.294 


























.450 




























33-56 
17-47 


49-00 
19.23 


12.04 

8.12 


0.81 
1.32 


6-75 
3.09 


11.38 
3.58 


73-79 
S-7& 


is 


13.21 
3.45 


2.92 
2.00 


4.08 
r.73 


37-21 
16.42 


13.21 
3-43 



12. 

13- 
14. 

JI: 
II: 

19- 
20. 

21. 
22. 
23- 
24. 



Percentage of different words not known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade pupils. 

Maximum syllabic sentence-length. 

Minimum syllabic sentence-length. 

Number of figures of speech. 

Number of sentences per paragraph. 

Number of prepositional phrases.. 

Number of different words. 

Number of third-person pronouns* 

Number of infinitive phrases. 

Number of simple sentences. 

Number of * words 



Range of syllabic sentence-4ength. 
Number of infiniti' 



.ve and prepositional phrases. 



method it is possible to select for further use elements that cor- 
relate as closely as possible with the criterion in this instance, 
the average reading score of 190 readers and as little as possi- 
ble with each other. Table XXXI shows the intercorrelation 



130 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

of the twenty-four elements identified as significant indexes of 
difficulty for "poorest" readers. 24 

SELECTION OF MOST USEFUL ELEMENTS 

Several criteria were set up in selecting useful elements for 
prediction. It was believed that such elements should correlate 
closely with the average reading score, correlate relatively little 
among themselves, be readily recognizable, and together give an 
adequate representation of known indexes of difficulty without 
including a number too large for convenient use* 

Eight elements seem to meet the requirements set up for se- 
lection. They are: number of different hard words; number of 
easy words; percentage of monosyllables; number of first-, sec- 
ond-, and third-person pronouns; average sentence-length in 
words; percentage of different words; number of prepositional 
phrases ; and number of simple sentences. Examination of Table 
XXXI justifies the selection of these elements from the point 
of view of the first two criteria of usefulness. 

With respect to the third criterion, one may ask whether dif- 
ferent "hard" words, for example, are more readily recognized 
than words "not known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade pupils/' 
The answer is clearly, "yes." A "hard" word is any word that 
is not "easy." And easy words, as they are defined in this study, 
number only 756. They can be memorized, therefore, as they 
are used. The result is that a reader is soon able to check hard 
words with surprising rapidity. 

Counting the number of words not known to 90 per cent of 
sixth-grade pupils cannot be done so expeditiously. In the first 
place, Dale's 8,ooo-Word List is distributed privately and hence 
is less accessible than the Easy-Word List. In the second place, 
no one can hope to remember whether a particular word is 
known, let us say, by 42 per cent or by 92, per cent of sixth- 
grade pupils. Every word must be checked against the list in 
order that its familiarity may be determined. Furthermore, the 

3 * In Appendix E, Table LXXXIV, 5s shown the Intel-correlation of the forty-four 
elements described earlier in the Chapter. 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 131 

list obviously is not exhaustive, and a word may not appear 
therein. It becomes necessary in such cases to resort to an esti- 
mate of familiarity which may or may not be reliable. Number 
of words not known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade pupils was 
therefore considered less useful as a measure of hardness than 
number of hard words. 

Preference was given to word-counts as a measure of length 
of sentence, for the reason that they can usually be made more 
rapidly and accurately than counts by syllables. One element 
of difficulty,, namely, figures of speech, warrants selection from a 
statistical point of view, inasmuch as it correlates fairly closely 
with the criterion of difficulty and relatively little with other 
elements. However, it has not been selected among elements of 
greatest usefulness. There seems reason to believe that unless a 
person is sensitive to figurative style, he probably will err in 
his count of figures of speech and hence obtain an unreliable 
measure. 

This sorting of elements of difficulty in no way precludes the 
use of other significant elements, should one prefer to use them. 
For greatest accuracy, however, elements which measure differ- 
ent aspects of structural expression are most desirable. These 
are the ones which we have just pointed out. 

HOW SHALL THE MOST USEFUL ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY 

BE USED IN ESTIMATING DIFFICULTY OF 

READING MATERIALS? 

In view of the fact that each of the eight elements selected in 
the previous section is related to difficulty, each may be used as 
an index of the difficulty of material in which it occurs. Further- 
more, the occurrence of all or several elements of difficulty may 
be considered a better index of relative difficulty than any single 
element. For example, if in counting the number of different 
hard words in equal sized samplings of two books, The Epic of 
America and The Good Earth> let us say, we find, as is actually 
the case, a8 per cent in the former and 15 per cent in the latter, 
we have some grounds for thinking that The Epic of America 



132 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

is the more difficult book. If we find also that 67 per cent of the 
words in the first are different words as against 65 per cent in 
the second, we have slightly more evidence. If we pursue the 
analysis still farther and discover in The Epic of America an 
average of 15 prepositional phrases in a sample similar in size to 
one containing 8 prepositional phrases in The Good Earthy there 
is added reason for ranking the first as more difficult. An aver- 
age sentence-length of 44 words in the former also indicates 
greater difficulty than an average length of 29 words in the lat- 
ter. If we look again at elements which indicate ease and find 
only 5 personal pronouns in the one and 13 in the other, we have 
little reason to doubt the relative difficulty of the two books. 
Although simple sentences, monosyllables, and number of easy 
words might be included in the analysis, their use is made un- 
necessary by the agreement among the elements already count- 
ed. We already have sufficient evidence to rank The Epic of 
America of greater difficulty than The Good Earth, since it con- 
tains more different hard words, a larger percentage of different 
words, fewer personal pronouns, more prepositional phrases, 
and longer sentences. 

The number of elements to be used in estimating difficulty 
depends upon several factors: the degree of agreement reached 
by the use of two* or three elements, the amount of time neces- 
sary in making the estimate, the degree of precision desired, and 
so on. Although elements do not always vary in the same direc- 
tion with the consistency of the foregoing illustration, simplicity 
or complexity of expression tends to be more or less general for 
any particular book. All the eight elements which we have 
designated as most useful seldom modify materially the esti- 
mate of difficulty that can be made by four or five of their num- 
ber. Proof of this statement will be shown later. 

In estimating the relative difficulty of magazines, newspapers, 
and books, as reported in the next chapter, four elements have 
been used: number of monosyllables, percentage of different 
words, average sentence-length in syllables, and number of 
simple sentences. In some cases additional elements have been 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 133 

counted for the purpose of comparing the classification of ma- 
terials by few or many elements of difficulty. These are: num- 
ber of different hard words, percentage of easy words, number 
of prepositional phrases, and number of personal pronouns. 
Agreement among three analyses has been generally found to be 
reliable. 

One of the chief merits of the method just described probably 
lies in its objectivity. Its use obviates the haphazard designa- 
tion of a particular book, magazine, or newspaper as relatively 
easy or difficult on the basis of personal opinion. A second merit 
lies in its reliability, which was discovered by correlating the 
absolute difficulty of a series of selections expressed in terms of 
test scores with the relative difficulty of the same selection in- 
dicated by rankings on the test. For fiction, a rank correlation 
of .535 .103 was obtained; for non-fiction, ,663.o8i. Rank- 
ing of materials for difficulty by this method is therefore fairly 
reliable. 

Two major limitations attend the ranking of materials ac- 
cording to the number of elements of structural difficulty. To 
return to our previous illustration. Let us suppose that after 
ranking The Epic of America as more difficult than The Good 
Earth we are asked to isolate one or the other and to define its 
difficulty precisely. We discover, then, that although we know 
how many different hard words the book contains, what per- 
centage of the words are different, how many personal pronouns 
it averages per hundred words, and the number or percentage 
of several other elements, this is all we do know. Rather, this is 
all, except that the book is more or less difficult than another 
book which we have used as a basis of comparison. Some other 
technique must be introduced in order to define the difficulty of 
The Epic of America^ The Good Earth, or any book in terms 
of an accepted criterion of difficulty. Such a technique is de- 
scribed in the next section. 

By the method just presented, we assume that all of the vari- 
ous elements by which we estimate difficulty have equal 
weights. For example, a high percentage of different hard words 



134 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

and a long average sentence are considered equal contributors 
to difficulty, In reality, such is not the case, since no group of 
variables in a realm of concomitants acts in this manner. Hence, 
the estimate is somewhat less exact than if each element were 
assigned its proper weight, as is done by the method described 
in the following paragraphs. 

PREDICTING DIFFICULTY IN TERMS OF AN 
AVERAGE READING SCORE 

Since all elements of difficulty must serve in some way to de- 
termine the difficulty of a selection in which they occur, it seems 
probable that a combination of the most useful elements into a 
single instrument of prediction will give the best possible esti- 
mate of difficulty. That instrument is a statistical device known 
as a "regression equation/' which expresses the relation between 
a single dependent variable, X 19 and a number of independent 
variables, X*, X 3 , X+ . . . . X n . In this case, X* is the criterion 
of difficulty which we are trying to predict. That is, it is the 
average reading score which a group of readers of limited ability 
will probably make when tested on a selection. X 2 . . . . X n are 
the elements of difficulty combined to predict JTi. The regres- 
sion equation which may be used to predict X x is: 25 



X*** - . 06566 JT a +. ooi 268J*VK 004064^4+ 
. 007 j45.Xi - . 02342^ - . 03371X7 - 
. 01455^8-. oioi5-ST 9 +3. 408+ .2941 . 

The meanings of the terms are as follows: 

Jx=the average reading score which will probably be made by a group of 
adults of limited reading ability on a given passage of general reading 
material. 

-XT~the number of different hard words found in a passage of the size used in 
the reading tests., i.e., about 100 words in length. 

-X" 3 =the number of easy words found in a passage of 100 words. 

-3T 4 =the percentage of polysyllables found in the passage. 

a s The general equation form for n variables is: 



(Holzitiger, op. cit., Formula 139, p. 292.) 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 135 

X s = th& number of first-, second-, and third-person pronouns occurring in the 

passage. 

Jf6=the average sentence-length in words used in the passage. 
X 7 =tht percentage of different words used in the passage. 
Jf8=the number of prepositional phrases found in the passage. 
Jf 9 =the number of simple sentences used in the passage. 
.006566, +.0012685 etc., = regression coefficients which give the weight or 

value to be attached to each independent variable. 
3 .408 = a statistical constant. 
. 2941 = the probable error of prediction. 

The average reading score which will probably be made by 
the group, when predicted by this equation, has a probable error 
of .294. This means the chances are about even that the pre- 
dicted score will not differ from the actual score which would be 
obtained by testing more than ,294. 

To illustrate the use of this equation in predicting the average 
reading score of a selection, take, for example, the adapted ver- 
sion of Robinson Crusoe. Samplings of this book contain on the 
average 1 1 different hard words, 70 easy words, 72 per cent of 
monosyllables, 16 personal pronouns, an average sentence- 
length of 12.04 words, 36.5 per cent of different words, 7 prepo- 
sitional phrases, and 4 simple sentences. The most probable 
average score that readers of limited ability would make if they 
were tested for comprehension of the book is obtained in the 
following manner: 

^ I =-(.oo6566Xn)+(.ooi268X7o)+(. 004064X72) 
+(.oo75 4 5Xi3)-(. 02342X12. 04) -(.03371X36. 5) 
~(. 01455 X7)~(- 01015X4)4-3- 408=2, i. 

This average score of 2.1 indicates that readers of limited 
ability will probably find the adapted Robinson Crusoe as easy 
to read as any item used in the adult reading tests, since the 
easiest item had an average score of 2.1 for "poorest" readers. 
An examination of all individual scores indicates that 58.6 per 
cent of the "poorest" readers showed a fair comprehension of 
the selections by a score of 2 or better. A close relationship 
exists between the percentage who can be expected to compre- 
hend the selection and the average comprehension score which 



136 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

the group can be expected to make when tested on the selection. 
This has been shown by a correlation of .898. It seems probable, 
therefore, that most adults of limited reading ability can under- 
stand a selection with an index of difficulty of 2.1. What this 
index means in terms of grade-levels will be shown in a later 
chapter. 

RELIABILITY OF PREDICTION 

How well do the eight elements predict the difficulty of gen- 
eral reading material? How much better than mere chance is 
prediction by the technique described in the foregoing sections? 
In other words, is prediction by the use of eight elements re- 
liable? These questions may be answered in either of two ways. 
According to the one, we may simply state that the eight ele- 
ments predict difficulty fairly well and that their use gives an 
estimate considerably better than mere chance. For the gen- 
eral reader of this report, such an answer is probably satisfac- 
tory. He can be content "to take our word" as truth and pass 
over the remainder of this section. There we answer the ques- 
tions in a less general way. Such an answer is intended for the 
more analytical reader the student of research who wants 
statistical proof that a proposed technique is reliable. 

Precision of prediction depends partly on the size of the corre- 
lation between the right and left sides of the equation, that is, 
on the correlation between the actual and the predicted difficul- 
ty of a selection. This relationship is expressed in terms of a 
multiple-correlation coefficient, designated R. For the equation 
given on page 134, R has a value of .64^^ It is evident that the 
combination of eight elements yields a higher correlation with 
difficulty than any of the elements taken alone. The correlation 
of the single elements with difficulty has been shown in Table 
XXVII. 

From R, .645^ it is possible to measure the relationship be- 



26 The formula for obtaining R is: Rifo n) *l : g ' ' ' ' 

(Holzinger, op. cit., Formula 155, p. 307.) 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 137 

tween prediction by the regression equation and a pure guess. 27 
This relation was found to be .764, which means that the esti- 
mate of difficulty based on the occurrence of eight elements will 
be in error on the average by about .76 as much as if the errors 
resulted from pure guesses. Or subtracting .76 from i.oo, the 
errors will be .24 smaller than those in pure guesses. 

Precision of prediction depends also on the size of the prob- 
able error of estimate, commonly designated P-E.^.^,)- For 
the equation developed in this section the value of the probable 
error of estimate is .ap. 28 This means that the chances are about 
even that the actual difficulty of a selection will not vary from 
the predicted difficulty more than + .29. If the predicted diffi- 
culty of a given book is represented by an average score of 2,1, 
the chances are 50 in 100 that the actual difficulty will lie some- 
where between 1.81 and 2,39. Although the relationship be- 
tween prediction and actuality is considerably lower than an 
approximation of certainty, it is higher than other investigators 
have obtained in predicting difficulty of other types of material. 
It is unquestionably high enough to be of practical value in 
estimating difficulty of materials for adults of limited reading 
ability. 

PREDICTING DIFFICULTY BY A SMALLER 
NUMBER OF ELEMENTS 

In view of the amount of labor involved in counting the oc- 
currence of eight elements in a selection, we made an effort to 
discover whether combinations of fewer elements would give a 
prediction approximately as good. One who is accustomed to 
deal with statistical data will see at once that low weights are 
attached to three of the variables in the equation number of 
easy words, percentage of monosyllables, and number of simple 

a ? The coefficient of alienation is calculated: 



Truman L. Kelley, Statistical Method. (New York: Macmillan Co., 1923), p. 173. 

28 The formula for the probable error of estimate is: P..( es t.) ==s .6745 <n .23 ..* 
(Holzinger, op. cit. t Formula 84, p. an.) 



138 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

sentences. Apparently these variables do not make for greater 
predictive accuracy. When they are omitted from calculation 
the new equation becomes: 

jYjs .01029X2+ .009012X5 .02094X6 .03313X7 
-.01485X8+3-774, 

in which the subscripts of X designate the same elements as in 
the longer equation. X 2 designates number of different hard 
words; X s , number of first-, second-, and third-person pronouns; 
Xe, average sentence-length in words; X 7 , percentage of differ- 
ent words; and X 8) number of prepositional phrases. Quite as 
reliable results may be obtained by combining these elements as 
by combining with them the three omitted from the earlier 
equation. The statistical proof for this statement lies in the fol- 
lowing measures: 

^==.6435+. 085 
P.E. (est. X x )=.294 

Multiple r, .6435, is almost identical with .6446 obtained for the 
longer equation. The probable errors of estimate vary from 
,2945 to .2941 for the two equations. This variation is clearly 
insignificant. 

By arranging the eight most useful elements into various 
combinations of four, it has been found that nine different com- 
binations will each give an estimate of difficulty about as good 
as that obtained by the use of more elements. Equations for 
these combinations are shown in Table XXXIL The symbols 
have the same meaning as in the first equation on page 134. 
Although a slightly better estimate of difficulty can be secured 
from the use of one team of variables than another, there seems 
to be no special advantage in giving preference to any particular 
one, except on the ground of ease of counting. The formula used 
in the chapters which follow is for variables 1.25678. 

In order that estimates by the regression equation shall be 
reliable, certain cautions need to be observed. Data to which 
the regression equation is applied must be comparable with 
those of the sample from which the equation was derived. In 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 139 

other words, they must be obtained from general reading ma- 
terials of the sort used in the tests described in chapter iii. 
Samples of the material should be approximately the same 
length as the test items about 100 words. In predicting the 
difficulty of long selections, several hundred-word passages may 
be selected and examined for the presence of the elements of 
prediction. An average of the occurrence of these elements in 

TABLE XXXII 
INSTRUMENTS OF PREDICTION, COMBINING FOUR ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY* 



Vari- 
ables 


Formula 


R 


P.E. 

(est. 
-Xi) 


1.2678.. 


X x = .01229X3 -.02448X5 .03245X7-. 01623X8+3. 952 


.6402 


.2956 


.2567.. 


X z = .01333X2 +.01007X5 .02224X5-. 03054X7+3. 532 


6393 


.2958 


.3678.. 


Xi= .009709X3 .02510X5 .03410X7 .01882X3+2.965 


.6387 


.2960 


.4678.. 


Xi= .01279X4 .02405X5 .03866X7 .01962X8+3.156 


-6385 


.2961 


.2467.. 


X x = .01156X3 +.006938X4- .02552X5- .03055X7+3 .153 


.6368 


.2967 


.2679.. 


Xi= .01540X2 .02924X5 .02999X7 .01188X9+3.816 


6355 


.2970 


.4567-- 


Xi= .01350X4 +.01057X5 .02247X5 .03758X7+2.682 


-6347 




3467-- 


Xx= .007945X3+ .009218X4 .02622X5 .03245X7+2 . 160 


6345 


.2974 


35 6 7-- 


Xx= .01027X3 +.008694X3- .02437X5-. 03298X7+2. 535 


.6340 


-2975 



* Xt** average reading score. 

Jfa=number of different hard words in a passage of 100 words. 
Jfj= number of easy words. 
JS^ percentage of monosyllables. 
Jfssanuraber of personal pronouns. 
X & = average sentence-length in words. 
JT7=percentage of different words. 
Jfjas number of prepositional phrases. 
J$r 9 =number of simple sentences. 

the selected passages should then be substituted in the regres- 
sion equation. Finally, the estimated score must be interpreted 
as the difficulty which adults of limited reading ability probably 
will experience in reading. 

VERIFYING THE PREDICTED SCORES 

Is a formula derived from the scores of one population a valid 
means of predicting scores for a second population ? The pro- 
cedure followed in answering this question was, first, to obtain 
measures of reading ability of a second population by use of the 
Adult Reading Test, and then to correlate the scores with the 



140 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

predicted scores based on the performance of the first popula- 
tion. 

One hundred and thirty-six adults in evening classes and in an 
industrial reformatory were tested. Of this number, 102 had 
scores that fell within the limits which identified "poorest" read- 
ers, that is, between 68.63 and 15.05. The scores obtained by 
these readers were then correlated with those predicted by use 
of the regression equation based on the scores of 190 "poorest" 
readers. A coefficient of .720 .07 5 indicates that the regres- 
sion equation is valid for use in a second population of which the 
experimental population may be taken as an adequate sample. 

SAMPLING OF BOOKS 

The statement has already been made that the elements used 
in the regression equation should be counted in passages ap- 
proximately one hundred words in length; also that the counts 
obtained from several such passages in a long selection should 
be averaged to obtain the typical occurrence of particular ele- 
ments in the entire selection. In interpreting the average of sev- 
eral passages as characteristic of the larger selection, we are 
faced with questions concerning the adequacy and the repre- 
sentativeness of the sampling. 

The question of adequacy of the sampling relates to the num- 
ber of hundred-word passages to analyze in a given selection. 
The question of representativeness pertains to the distribution 
of the samplings, so that they will represent fairly well all por- 
tions of the selection. The procedure commonly recommended 
to research workers is to exercise best judgment and expert 
knowledge of the situation in choosing what shall constitute a 
reliable sample and to select the samples in a way that appears 
to be fairly representative. For all practical purposes, a sample 
paragraph of approximately one hundred words from each chap- 
ter seems adequate. If examination of a book indicates that 
chapter divisions are more a convenience of format than a logi- 
cal division of thought, then one passage may be taken as rep- 
resentative of several chapters. 



ELEMENTS INFLUENCING READING DIFFICULTY 141 

Some evidence of the representativeness of the hundred-word 
sampling of each chapter is shown in Table XXXIIL The data 
present the average occurrence of the five elements of difficulty 
in two hundred-word passages from each of twenty chapters in 
Everyday Problems of the Everyday Child. Differences in the 
mean occurrence of each element in the two passages are not 
statistically significant. For this book, then, one sampling is as 

TABLE XXXIII 

AVERAGE OCCURRENCE OF FIVE ELEMENTS IN Two SAMPLINGS OF TWENTY 
PASSAGES EACH FROM ONE BOOK 



ELEMENT* 


FIRST SAMPLING OF 
TWENTY PASSAGES 


SECOND SAMPLING OF 
TWENTY PASSAGES 


DIFFERENCE 

BETWEEN 

MEANS 


Average 


S.D. 


Average 


S.D. 


2 


29-6o .6819 
4-65+ .3324 

30-7211-590 
yo.32 .6771 

11.65+ -4 110 


4.521 
2.204 
10.54 
4.489 
2.725 


29.00+ .7401 

5-05 -5342 
a8.53i. 49 o 
68.34 .6888 
i2,45 -559 1 


4.907 

3-542 
9.868 

4-5*7 
3.707 


. 60 + 1 . 01 1 
.40 .6291 
i.i92.i79 
i-98 .9648 
.8o .6939 


< 


6 ... 


7 


8 





* Elements: 
a. Number of different hard words. 

5. Number of first-, second-^ and third-person pronouns. 

6. Average sentence-length m words. 

7. Percentage of different words. 

8. Number of prepositional phrases. 

representative of structural elements in a chapter as two sam- 
plings. While a larger number of passages would probably give 
a more precise sampling of the entire content, it is scarcely prac- 
tical to use them in view of the time required to analyze each. 

SUMMARY 

The chapter has presented partial answers to two questions. 
The first is, What elements of difficulty are inherent in adult 
reading materials of a general nature? The second is> How can 
these elements be used in a more accurate estimate of the diffi- 
culty of general materials for adults of limited reading ability? 

In answering the first question, elements of difficulty have 



14* WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

been defined for adult readers in general, for "best" readers, 
and for "poorest" readers. The facts show that while an ele- 
ment of difficulty tends to be general, the extent of its influence 
tends to vary with specific classes of readers. The size of the 
coefficients and direction of their deviation indicates that as 
reading ability reaches a higher level of efficiency, difficulty of 
comprehension, due to variations in the author's expression, 
tends to grow less. Although the present chapter has gone no 
farther than to define good and poor readers in terms of their 
average performance on the Adult Reading Test, it seems rea- 
sonable to assume that directors and advisers of adult groups 
can estimate with considerable accuracy the class in which par- 
ticular individuals belong. 

In answer to the second question, two methods of estimating 
difficulty have been presented. The first involves a compara- 
tive count of significant elements of difficulty occurring in dif- 
ferent reading materials. It is a simple and fairly reliable means 
of judging the relative difficulty of books, magazines, and news- 
papers. The second supplies a more specific and somewhat more 
reliable method of predicting difficulty in terms of the average 
reading score. The data presented show that a regression equa- 
tion involving eight elements makes for accuracy of prediction 
little better than that obtained by combinations of fewer ele- 
ments. Although techniques developed in this study do not 
yield highly accurate estimates of difficulty, predictions based 
upon a reliability of .64 will be fairly satisfactory for general 
prediction and unquestionably more effective than sheer chance. 

Succeeding chapters illustrate how the findings presented 
here may be put to practical use by librarians and others. Some- 
times they are used to estimate in an objective and reasonably 
reliable manner the relative difficulty of general magazines and 
newspapers. Again, they serve as a means of predicting absolute 
difficulty in terms of an average reading score. 



CHAPTER V 

HOW DO ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 

WITH RESPECT TO ELEMENTS 

OF DIFFICULTY? 

IT IS not within the scope of this report to analyze any large 
amount of adult reading material. It seems essential, how- 
ever, to examine a considerable sampling of several kinds 
for the purpose of answering such questions as: How do ma- 
terials differ with respect to significant elements of difficulty? 
What materials can be designated relatively easy or difficult on 
the basis of one or more elements of difficulty inherent in them ? 
In answering these questions, we have analyzed representa- 
tive magazines, books, and newspapers to discover the occur- 
rence of elements that characterize them as relatively easy or 
difficult. Four elements which correlate significantly with diffi- 
culty have been used: percentage of monosyllables; percentage 
of different words, or vocabulary diversity; length of sentence 
in syllables; and number of simple sentences. Any conclusions 
concerning relative difficulty are limited to these elements. 

WHAT MATERIALS TO STUDY 

One of the most perplexing problems connected with a study 
of reading matter is the selection of materials that may claim 
to be representative of what is written for adults and presum- 
ably read by them. If at least half the adult public reads maga- 
zines, newspapers, and books, then these three sources of ma- 
terial may be thought of as generally representative of what 
adults read. But they suggest only a broad classification. They 
lack particularity. Obviously, a book is not just a book. Nor is 
a magazine just a magazine. Each has some mark of individu- 
ality, despite the notable standardization of content, style, and 
format that prevails among certain classes of newspapers, popu- 

143 



144 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

lar magazines, and best-sellers. Selecting materials from the 
three sources, then, involves, first, defining arbitrary criteria of 
selection, then examining and sorting materials in the light of 
these criteria, and, finally, assembling those which seem to meet 
the criteria most satisfactorily. 

THE MAGAZINES STUDIED 

In order to keep the list of magazines within manageable pro- 
portions, we have limited the study to an analysis of those which 
are classified as "General" in the Directory of Newspapers and 
Periodicals? They contain a wide variety of articles intended to 
meet the needs of a heterogeneous public. Classifications ad- 
dressed to specialized groups of readers are therefore omitted. 
General magazines are further restricted to those whose circu- 
lation figures equal or exceed 125,000, as sworn to by the Audit 
Bureau of Circulation. If the circulation figures are a publisher's 
claim, unsupported by affidavit or detailed statement, or are 
merely estimates of another sort, the magazine is excluded. 

According to Ayer, circulation means "the average number 
of complete copies of all regular issues for a given period, ex- 
clusive of left-over, returned, file, sample, exchange, or ad- 
vertisers' copies, and special editions." 2 A list of magazines 
based on circulation figures, therefore, indicates the best-selling 
magazines and may be accepted as indicative of the preferences 
of magazine purchasers. But since circulation is conditioned by 
supply, which in any given community may be affected by the 
adequacy of facilities characterizing its newsstands and by other 
external influences, preference for magazines, as determined by 
the number purchased, obviously may fall short of representing 
the true number actually read. 

The sixty-eight general magazines which comprise the list 
cannot be said to be representative of the general reading of 
adults except in so far as they presumably represent in every 

1 N. W. Ayer & Sons, Directory of Newspapers and Periodicals for 1931 (Philadelphia: 
N. W. Ayer & Sons, 1931), pp. 1250-55, 1256-59. 

. 8. 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER. 145 

TABLE XXXIV 

NAMES AND DATES OF ISSUE OF MAGAZINES USED IN THE ANALYSIS 
AND THE ANNUAL CIRCULATION OF EACH 



Name of Magazine 


Issue 


Circulation 


Ace-High Magazine 


March, 1931 


I CQ. 820 


Aces (Fiction House Group) 


March, 1031 


Sl^.Al? 


All-Star Detective Stories 


March, 1931 


706 . ci i 


All-Story 


March 21, 1931 


V7Q . {-76 


American Home 


February IQTI 


2 CO . 1 7 < 


American Magazine, The 


February. IQ^I 


o 070.108 


Atlantic Monthly, The 


February. IQTI 


I2q.7o8 


Better Homes and Gardens 


February, IQII 


* 7 / 7 U 

I , 7QO , 660 


Blue Book Magazine, The 


March, 1931 


I7C,,7OI 


Capper's Farmer 


January, 1071 


0^7 . A-A.A. 


Clues 


April. IQ*?I 


211 .A^-d 


College Humor . .... 


February. IQTI 


24.O , Q7 C 


Collier's Magazine 


February 1 IQTI 


2 2C7 2QO 


Country Gentleman 


February, IOTI 


I ,7OI ^QQ 


Delineator . . 


February icni 


2 OO2.672 


Detective Story Magazine 


March 28, 1931 


I,i47,c8o 


Dream World 


April. 1 07 1 


210,74.0 


Farmer's Wife * 


February. lo^i 


n^Q.OCC 


Field and Stream 


ApriL IQ^I 


I74.,OQ2 


Gentlewoman 


December, 1930 


1,158.204 


Golden Book 


January, 10^1 


136,584 


Good Housekeeping 


February, 10.11 


1,767.380 


Hearst's International Cosmopolitan 
Magazine 


February, 1031 


I 9 590 , 840 


Holiday 


March, 1931 


153*3^6 


Holland's Magazine .... 


April, IQTI 


414,111 


House and Garden 


March, 1931 


I25,8l8 


Household Magazine 


February, IQ^I 


1,777,088 


Tudee 


February 21, 1931 


171,898 


Ladies* Horne Journal, THe - - - 


February. lo^i 


2 1 <8i,g4a 


Liberty 


February 7, 1931 


2,415,942 


Literary Digest 


February 14, 1931 


1,602,397 


McCall's Magazine 


January, IQII 


2,505,088 


Mother's Home Life 


February, 1931 


723,669 


Motion Picture Classic, 


March, 1931 


159,600 


IVtotion Picture Magazine. . ,,..,.. 


April, iq^i 


387,396 


Nation's Business 


March, 1931 


312,076 


National Farm Journal 


December, 1930 


1,517,446 









146 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

TABLE XXXWConiinuec? 



Name of Magazine 


Issue 


Circulation 


National Geographic Magazine 


Fe bruary 1 93 1 


i ,2,01 ,082 


Needlecraft 


February, icni 


I ,O27, ICQ 


New Movie Magazine 


February, IQTI 


I . 2Q7 , 048 


Outdoor Life 


April i en i 


I1C,4.W 


Pathfinder 


February 14., IQ'U 


qq8 , Q4.8 


People's Popular Monthly 


February, 1931 


I j 117 2 ?8 


Photoplay Magazine 


March, 1931 


620,331 


Pictorial Review . . ... 


March, 1931 


2,502,214 


Picture Play 


April, 1 93 1 


2OC,OCQ 


Popular Mechanics 


March, 1931 


514,810 


Popular Science Monthly 


April, 1 07 1 


?6l ,OCQ 


Radio News 


March. 10*31 


151 ,421 


Ranch Romances 


April, i on 


211,434 


Red Book Magazine 


February. io?i 


6^8,282 


Review of Reviews . . 


February. 10^1 


i6o,ooc 


Rotarian 


March, 1931 


1^8, 0^6 


Saturday Evening Post 


February 21, 1931 


2,924,363 


Science and Invention. . 


April. IQ7I 


14.8,4.^6 


Screen Book Magazine . . 


April, i o^i 


260 . 20^ 


Screenland .... . .... 


April. io? i 


iSc.-ua 


Short Stories 


April, 1 07 1 


I 'to, 009 


Sky Riders 


April, 1931 


176,180 


Successful Farming 


December, 1930 


I,IC7,8lI 


Xime 


February 16, 1931 


<OO,I72 


True Detective Mysteries 


February. IQII 


A86. 1 T7 


True Romances 


March, 1931 


601 ,QCI 


True Story Magazine 


February* IQTI 


2,110,^87 


Vogue 


March, 1931 


I'JQ.QQI 


Woman's Home Companion 


January* icm 


2,606.12^ 


Woman's World 


March, icm 


I.22C.7'?4 


World's Work 


March. IQ^I 


J 27, 77 A 









case the magazine reading of 125,000 readers or more. A list of 
these magazines, with the dates of publication used, together 
with circulation figures for 1931, appears in Table XXXIV. 3 



THE NEWSPAPERS STUDIED 



The Directory of Newspapers and Periodicals for 1933 reports 
that 2,053 daily newspapers were published in the United States 



*Ibtd., pp. 1203-11, 1212-18, 1250-55, 1256-59. 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 147 

and outlying territories in 1932. In the same year there were 
10,760 weekly publications, of which some 9,000 were largely 
newspapers of village and rural communities. The remainder 
were trade publications of various kinds. Similar facts have 
been compiled for the past several years, making it apparent 
that if we are to study newspapers which represent what 95 per 
cent of our population are reading, we should include daily and 
weekly newspapers of city, village, and rural circulation. Fur- 
thermore, the introduction of the graphic element into news- 
papers, for the purpose of featuring news which even the illiter- 
ate can understand, in a measure suggests the need of including 
graphics or tabloids in the study. 

In general, the ten daily papers studied are those having the 
widest circulation among either morning or evening editions. 
Three of these are graphics. Village newspapers represent week- 
ly publications of towns in the Middle West having a popula- 
tion ranging between 400 and 6,000. Rural publications are rep- 
resented by Capper's Weekly. A total of fifteen newspapers com- 
prise the list shown in Table XXXV. 

BOOKS ANALYZED FOR RELATIVE DIFFICULTY 

Inasmuch as the study has been restricted to an investigation 
of elements of difficulty in adult reading material of a general 
nature, only books of a general character are included. Books 
on technical and vocational subjects, books that are encycloped- 
ic or analytical in content, and books adapted to particularly 
uncatholic tastes have not been included in the list. Those 
which seem appropriately designated "general" are popular 
novels, popular books of non-fiction, standard fiction, the Bible, 
and certain miscellaneous types to be described later. Table 
XXXVI lists the twenty-nine books which are ranked for rela- 
tive difficulty in this chapter. Restrictions instituted in the 
preparation of this list are admittedly arbitrary. 

By popular novels and popular general books we mean those 
that are currently popular, that is, books which have dominated 
public interest since January, 1929. Authority for popularity 



148 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



was found in demands at libraries and bookshops, as they were 
reported in monthly book-lists in the Bookman and booksellers' 
reports in Publishers' Weekly during the period from January, 
1929, until June, 1931. 

Inasmuch as standard books differ from popular books in 
style and theme, it may be assumed that they differ also in the 
occurrence of elements which mark a book easy or hard. Some 

TABLE XXXV 

NAMES or FIFTEEN NEWSPAPERS SELECTED FOR ANALYSIS, WITH CLASSIFI- 
CATION AND DATE OF ISSUE OF EACH 



Classification 




Newspaper 


Issue 


Metropolitan 




Boston Post 
Chicago American 
Chicago Daily Times (picture newspaper) 
Chicago Daily Tribune 
Christian Science Monitor 


August 8, 1931 
August 10, 1931 
August 10, 1931 
August n, 1931 
August 8, 1931 


Village 


I 


New York Evening Graphic 
New York Journal 
New York News (picture newspaper) 
Los Angeles Times 
Philadelphia Evening Bulletin 

'Edmore Herald News (North Dakota) 
Jefferson Banner (Wisconsin) 


August 7, 1931 
August 8, 1931 
August 9, 1931 
August 6, 1931 
August 8, 1931 

August 13, 1931 
August 13, 1931 


Rural Digest . 




Olney Daily Mail (Illinois) 
JRiceville Recorder (Iowa) 

Capper's Weekly (Kansas) 


June 27, 1931 
August 5, 1931 

February 7. IQ^I 











support for this assumption is found in Scudder's comparative 
study of length of sentences used by five nineteenth-century 
and five contemporary writers. 4 His findings show that, with 
the exception of Edith Wharton, all modern writers use shorter 
sentences than did novelists of earlier periods. Hawthorne's sen- 
tences, for example, average 36.42 words, as against sentences 
with an average of 18.75 wor ds used by Willa Gather. 
That the so-called "classics" seem to present no greater diffi- 

- Harold H. Scudder, "Sentence Length," English Journal, XII (November, 1923), 
617-20. 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 

TABLE XXXVI 

NAMES OF TWENTY-NINE BOOKS SELECTED FOR ANALYSIS, 
WITH CLASSIFICATION AND AUTHOR OF EACH 



149 



Classification 


Book 


Author 




("All Quiet on the Western Front 


Erich Maria Remarque 




Angel Pavement 


J. B. Priestley 




Cimarron 


Edna Ferber 


Popular novels . 


< Peder Victorious 


O. E. Rolvaag 




Roper's Row 


Warwick Deeping 




Scarlet Sister Mary 


Julia Peterkin 




[White Oaks of Jama 


Mazo de la Roche 




[Art of Thinking, The 


Ernest Dimnet 




Byron 


Andre" Maurois 




Elizabeth and Essex 


Lytton Strachey 


Popular general books. . 


< Henry the Eighth 


Francis Hackett 




Preface to Morals, A 
Story of San Michele, The 


Walter Lippmann 
Axel Munthe 




Tragic Era, The 


Claude G. Bowers 




Adventures of Huckleberry 






Finn, The 


Mark Twain 


"Best'* standard books . 


Last of the Mohicans, The 


James Fenimore Cooper 




Scarlet Letter, The 


Nathaniel Hawthorne 




Tales 


Edgar Allan Poe 




[Moby Dick 


Herbert Melville 


Classics,, original form. . 


< Robinson Crusoe 


Daniel Defoe 




[Silas Marner 


George Eliot 




[Moby Dick 


Sylvia Chatfield Bates 


Classics, adapted form. . 


< Robinson Crusoe 


Michael West 




[Silas Marner 


Ettie Lee 


Adaptation in basic Eng- 






lish 


Carl and Anna 


Frank Leonhard 


School readers for mid- 
dle grades 


[Reading and Living, Book I 
\ Reading and Living, Book II 


Hill, Lyman, and Moore 
Hill, Lyman, and Moore 




(Reading and Living, Book III 


Hill, Lyman, and Moore 




Bible 


King James Version 



150 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

culty from the standpoint of vocabulary than popular modern 
novels is shown by Witty and LaBrant. 5 They conclude from 
their analysis that other elements than vocabulary must deter- 
mine differences in difficulty, if such differences actually exist. 
The standard books listed in Table XXXVI represent practical 
unanimity of judgment among 400 professors of literature con- 
cerning "the ten works by American writers that best represent 
our bid for a permanent place among the masterpieces of the 
world's literature." 6 

Two versions of other standard books or classics are listed in 
Table XXXVI . These are included for the purpose of ascertain- 
ing how much simplification has been accomplished by adapting 
the original books to low-reading levels and, if possible, what 
method of simplification has been used. 

The inclusion of a series of school readers for the middle 
grades is based on the assumption that their content has char- 
acteristics similar to adult books, since reading instruction in 
the middle grades continues "until habits of rapid, silent read- 
ing approach maturity/' 7 The series studied was selected at 
random from texts published since 1929. 

THE PROCEDURE FOLLOWED IN ESTIMATING 
RELATIVE DIFFICULTY 

The method used in estimating the relative difficulty of gen- 
eral books, magazines, and newspapers has been described in 
chapter iv. It involves the following: (i) analyzing the material 
for the occurrence of four significant elements of difficulty, 
namely, percentage of monosyllables, percentage of different 
words, average length of sentences in syllables, and percentage 
of simple sentences; (2) comparing the occurrence of these ele- 
ments in the three classes of material taken as a whole; (3) com- 

s Paul A. Witty and Lou L. LaBrant, "Vocabulary and Reading," School and Society, 
XXXI (February 22, 1930), 268-72. 

*H. W. L., "Million Books and Best Books," Golden Book, VIII (August, 1926), 
382-83. 

7 Twenty-fourth Year Book of the National Society for the Study of Education (Bloom- 
ington, Illinois: Public School Publishing Co., 1925), Part I, pp. 55-56. 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 151 

paring the occurrence of the elements in materials within each 
class; and (4) ranking materials within each class for relative 
difficulty as defined by each element and by all elements. 

TREATMENT OF FINDINGS 

Striking similarities and differences were found in the analysis 
of magazines, newspapers, and books. We have attempted to 
show these findings in three ways. The first involves statistical 
summaries of the number and proportionate occurrence of the 
various elements in the different classes of material. The second 
utilizes a combined statistical and graphical presentation of the 
mean occurrence of each element in particular magazines, news- 
papers, and books. And the third gives a classification of all 
materials in each class according to their relative difficulty as 
indicated by the percentage of monosyllables, percentage of 
different words, length of sentence, and number of simple sen- 
tences. 

The first of these methods of treatment summarizes the find- 
ings in a manner that shows dominant tendencies among differ- 
ent types of material and makes possible certain generaliza- 
tions concerning each. The second method is more detailed. It 
shows similarities and differences among individual magazines, 
newspapers, and books with respect to particular elements 
studied. By isolating specific facts, it provides a means by 
which materials can be ranked for difficulty. The third method 
of treatment presents a classification of reading materials from 
the easiest to the most difficult, thereby defining the area of 
difficulty represented by each. 

MONOSYLLABLES IN ADULT READING MATERIALS 

Table XXXVII summarizes the data obtained from an analy- 
sis of monosyllables in general magazines, newspapers, and 
books. In all materials there is a predominance of one-syllable 
words. The highest percentages are, respectively, 75.8 in maga- 
zines, 70.6 in newspapers, and 83.3 in books; whereas the lowest 
percentages are, respectively, 61.5, 61.3, and 61.9. 



152 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



Some qualification should be made in interpreting the data 
pertaining to books, for the reason that simplified books are 
included in this class and therefore contribute to the statistical 
summaries presented in the table. When simplified books are 
excluded, the percentage of monosyllables is reduced from a 
range between 83.3 and 61.9 per cent to a range between 77.6 
and 61.9 per cent. The latter is not distinctly different from the 
range of monosyllables found in general magazines. 

TABLE XXXVII 

SUMMARY OF DATA OBTAINED FROM AN ANALYSIS OF MONOSYLLABLES 

IN THE READING MATERIAL OF MAGAZINES, 

NEWSPAPERS, AND BOOKS 





General 
Magazines 


Newspapers 


Books 


Range 


75.8 -61.5 
69.2 .28 

3-37 - 20 
69.2 

7*'4 
67-5 
3-9 
i-9 


70.6 -61.3 

64-3 -47 
2.68 .33 

64-3 
65.4 
62.0 
3-4 
i-7 


83.3 -61.9 
73-4 -55 
4-4^ .39 
73 - 2 
75-9 
69.5 
6-4 
3-a 


Mean 


Standard deviation 


Median 


Third quartile 


First quartile 


Quartile range 


Quartile deviation 





The closest agreement in percentage of monosyllables occurs 
among newspapers. A difference of 9.3 per cent has been found 
between the newspaper with highest percentage of monosyl- 
lables, 70.6, and the one with the lowest percentage, 61*3. Such 
consistency can probably be explained by the fact that several 
newspapers of approximately the same date of issue tend to 
present much news that is identical Further evidence of this 
agreement is shown by the relatively low quartile deviation and 
standard deviation, 

A simple way to calculate the extent of variation among read- 
ing materials with respect to the occurrence of monosyllables is 
to apply the standard deviation to the mean. It is then evident 
that approximately the middle two-thirds of all the material 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 153 

studied in general magazines contains between 72.6 per cent 
(69.2+3.37) and 65,8 per cent (69.23.37) of monosyllables; 
in newspapers, between 67.0 and 61.6 per cent; and in books, be- 
tween 77.8 and 69.0 per cent. 

Other facts regarding word-length may be obtained from the 
medians and quartiles shown in Table XXXVII. These meas- 
ures lead to the observation that in the middle half of all maga- 
zines studied, the percentage of monosyllables varies from 71.1 
(69.2+1.9) to 67.3 (69.2-1.9). In three-fourths of them, the 
percentage of monosyllables exceeds 67.5 (j x ). 

Conclusions of a similar sort may be drawn with respect to 
other types of material. It is clear that all classes of material 
when taken as a whole contain a high percentage of monosyl- 
labic words. Newspapers, however, consistently contain longer 
words than general magazines and books. 

DIVERSITY OF VOCABULARY IN ADULT 
READING MATERIALS 

Table XXXVIII presents a summary of data obtained from 
an analysis of materials for percentage of different words. A 
comparison of statistical measures for the three types of ma- 
terial reveals the following facts: The highest percentage of dif- 
ferent words in a thousand, 55.9, is found in general magazines; 
the lowest percentage, 25.5, in books. The exclusion of adapted 
classics would still give books the lowest percentage. When the 
three classes of material are compared in terms of the mean per- 
centage of different words occurring in all material of a class, it 
may be noted that books contain the lowest and newspapers the 
highest percentage. These findings are to be expected. For al- 
though both classes of material aim to make a universal appeal, 
the former does so by presenting a single theme of interest, 
whereas the latter utilizes a range of themes theoretically as 
wide as the whole scale of human interest. 

The range of different words is closest among newspapers. A 
difference of only 7 per cent may be noted between the news- 
paper containing the largest number of different words and the 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



newspaper containing the smallest. The general consistency in 
percentage of different words for all classes of material agrees 
with that found in percentage of monosyllables. As in the previ- 
ous instance, the degree of spread is shown by quartile and 
standard deviations, which are smallest for newspapers and 
largest for books. 

In material of books, the range extends from 50.6 per cent of 
different words to 25.5 per cent when simplified books are in- 
eluded, or to 36.1 per cent when they are excluded. In either 

TABLE XXXVIII 

SUMMARY OF DATA OBTAINED FROM AN ANALYSIS OF PERCENTAGE OF 
DIFFERENT WORDS IN THE READING MATERIAL OF 
MAGAZINES, NEWSPAPERS, AND BOOKS 





General 
Magazines 


Newspapers 


Books 


Range 


CC Q 44, O 


<*5.2 4.6.2 


CO. 6 2C.C 


Mean. . . . 


ro c + IQ 


ro . o 4- .11 


4.2 . C 4- .6q 


Standard deviation 


2.41+ .13 


1. 77 4- .22 


c.c8+ .40 


Median 


<O. C 


ci .3 


44.4 


Third quartile 


<2 I 


C2.2 


4.6. C 


First Quartile 


4.Q. 2 


CO. 3 


^Q.2 


Ouartile ranffe ... 


2 o 


1 .0 


7. 3 


Quartile deviation 


1.4. 


1 .0 


3-6 











case, the range is several per cent wider than for other types of 
material. The highest percentage of different words found in 
any book is lower than in newspapers and general magazines. 
We are led to conclude, therefore, that the books studied not 
only contain a smaller percentage of different words than other 
classes of material but they vary more widely in extent of vo- 
cabulary. This conclusion is supported by other facts in the 
table. For example, when we apply each standard deviation to 
its respective mean, we find that in the middle two-thirds of the 
general magazines studied, different words per thousand range 
from 52.91 to 48.09 per cent; in newspapers, from 52.67 to 
49.13 per cent; while in books the percentage of range for a 
proportionate number of materials is between 48.08 and 36.92 
per cent. 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 155 



LENGTH OF SENTENCES IN ADULT 
READING MATERIALS 

In analyzing the length of sentences sampled from maga- 
zines, newspapers, and books, we have expressed length in 
syllables rather than in words, for the measure had been used 
previously in analyzing a part of the materials in an earlier 
study and some data were already available. Since both meas- 
ures have been found to correlate closely with difficulty, either 
one or the other might have been used. 

The general trends in sentence-length shown in Table 
XXXIX are based on an analysis of 200 sentences in each of the 

TABLE XXXIX 

SUMMARY OF DATA OBTAINED FROM ANT ANALYSIS OF SYLLABIC SENTENCE- 
LENGTH IN THE READING MATERIAL OF MAGAZINES, 
NEWSPAPERS, AND BOOKS 





General 
Magazines 


Newspapers 


Books 


Ranee . .... 


202 i 


IAQ i 


2Q7 I 


JVj? 

.Median 


21 . C 


??.o 


24.0 


Third quartile 


28.O 


"?6. 


'U.g 


First quartile 


IB 2 


27 O 


i6.c 


Quartile range 


Q.8 


Q.O 


1C. Q 


Quartile deviation 


4..Q 


4. < 


7.7 











materials sampled. From this table several differences are out- 
standing. Although all types of material contain sentences of 
one word, no magazine or newspaper contains a sentence as long 
as 297 syllables, found in one book, the original Robinson Crusoe. 
Were this book excluded, the longest sentence, 186 syllables, 
would then be comparable with the longest sentence in other 
materials. 

A comparison of medians shows that half of the sentences in 
newspapers are at least 33 syllables in length; half of the sen- 
tences in books are 24 syllables or more in length; and in gen- 
eral magazines, half of the sentences equal or exceed 2,1.5 syl- 
lables. From these facts and from the size of the third quartile, 



156 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

it is evident that the newspapers and books studied contain a 
larger proportion of long sentences than general magazines. 

The agreement among materials of a class with respect to 
sentence-length is closest among newspapers and least in books, 
as shown by the quartile deviations. Again, the disparity among 
books seems to reflect the influence of adapted classics whose 
sentences have been intentionally shortened for the sake of 
simplicity. 

Since this table presents summarized data, it can indicate 
only general trends of sentence-length and not the significant 
variations that actually appear among sentences in individual 
magazines, newspapers, and books. Some of these will be pre- 
sented later. 

SIMPLICITY OF SENTENCE STRUCTURE IN 
ADULT READING MATERIALS 

The facts to be discussed in this section are derived from data 
pertaining to simple sentences which are summarized in Table 
XL. If one recalls that there are five kinds of sentences com- 
monly recognized in a classification of sentences according to 
form simple, compound, complex, compound-complex, and 
fragmentary then the mean percentage of simple sentences 
suggests that this kind of sentence probably predominates in all 
types of material studied. From an actual count of other kinds 
of sentences, the results of which are not shown in this report, 
we have evidence to the effect that this hypothesis is true only 
for general magazines. In newspapers, complex sentences ex- 
ceed simple sentences by 3 per cent. In books, they exceed sim- 
ple sentences by about I per cent. Other kinds of sentences are 
relatively infrequent in all classes of materials. 

The main facts to be derived from Table XL include the fol- 
lowing: The range shows that no newspaper contains more than 
50 per cent of simple sentences, whereas magazines contain as 
many as 62 per cent and books, 55.5 per cent. The extreme pre- 
dominance of simple sentences, 62 per cent, occurs in a wood- 
pulp magazine of cheap stories of action, adventure, and in- 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 157 

trigue. Writers of this sort of fiction uniformly adopt crisp, sim- 
ple sentences or fragments of sentences in order to produce 
startling effects. 

The size of the quartile deviations shows that general maga- 
zines follow the most consistent practice in use of simple sen- 
tences; and books, the least. The latter circumstance proba- 
bly is explained by the inclusion of adapted texts with simplified 
sentence-structure, as well as the older classics in which the 

TABLE XL 

SUMMARY OF DATA OBTAINED FROM AN ANALYSIS OF SIMPLE SENTENCES 

IN THE READING MATERIAL OF MAGAZINES, 

NEWSPAPERS, AND BOOKS 





General 
Magazines 


Newspapers 


Books 


Ranee 


62.0 27.0 
45- 6 -55 

6.J2 .78 

45-5 
50.0 
4 i.o 
9.0 
4-5 


50.0 28.0 
41.5 i. 12 
6.42+ .79 
42.0 
47.0 
37- 

10. 

5- 


55-5-4-0 
35. 4 i. 4 6 
n.7i.o3 
37- 
43-5 
28.8 

J 4-7 
7-4 


Mean 


Standard, deviation 


Median 


Third quartile 


First quartile 


Quartile range . ... 


Quartile deviation 





sentences are notably involved. Greater uniformity might have 
resulted from confining books to current publications, as was 
done in the case of magazines and newspapers. Such a proce- 
dure seemed impossible, however, owing to the very nature of 
book-reading habits, which at their best are not restricted to 
current material 

DEFINING RELATIVE DIFFICULTY WITH RESPECT TO 
SPECIFIC ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY 

From the data presented in the previous section we have been 
able to show what in general are the dominant characteristics 
of magazines, newspapers, and books with respect to four ele- 
ments of difficulty, and to compare in a broad way the different 
classes of.reading material. But that is all. And it is not enough. 



158 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

For we are interested not only in similarities and differences 
among classes of reading materials, but in the variations within 
each class. Is the proportion of monosyllables the same in At- 
lantic Monthly as in Liberty** Does the reader of Capper 3 Week- 
ly meet the same average sentence-lengths as the reader of 
Christian Science Monitorl How much has the percentage of 
simple sentences been increased in adapting Silas Marner for 
low levels of ability? Such questions as these must be answered 
in order to secure evidence by which a particular magazine, 
newspaper, or book is designated more or less difficult than 
another of its class. 

The procedure followed in defining relative difficulty involves 
two steps. The first is to discover variations in the occurrence 
of the several elements of difficulty in individual materials with 
respect to the mean or median occurrence in all materials of a 
particular class. The second is, then, to classify materials into 
three groups designated "easy," "average," or "difficult." Here, 
"easy" is defined as an extreme deviation from the central tend- 
ency for a particular element in the direction of simplicity. 
"Difficult" is defined as extreme deviation in the opposite di- 
rection, that is, toward complexity. And "average" is defined 
as coincidence or approximate coincidence with the central 
tendency. 

GENERAL MAGAZINES CLASSIFIED ACCORDING TO 
PERCENTAGE OF MONOSYLLABLES 

Table XLI lists the sixty-eight magazines with the percentage 
of monosyllables found in each. They are arranged from the 
highest percentage of monosyllables, 75.8, in Ranch Romances, 
to the lowest percentage, 61.5, in Review of Reviews. By apply- 
ing the data shown in Table XXXVII to those given in Table 
XLI, it is possible to define concretely what is meant by certain 
measures of variability in the former table. For example, we 
may say that the range of difficulty represented by general 
magazines extends from Ranch Romances to Review of Reviews. 
Half of the general magazines studied are easier than Liberty , 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 159 



TABLE XLI 

PERCENTAGE OF MONOSYLLABLES IN THE READING MATERIAL OF 
SIXTY-EIGHT GENERAL MAGAZINES 



Magazine 


Mono- 
syllables 


Magazine 


Mono- 
syllables 


Ranch Romances 


75-8 
75.2 
75.0 
74.2 
74.1 
73.6 
73-5 
73-2 
72-3 
7 2 -3 

72.2 
72.1 
72.0 
71.9 
71.9 
7*-7 
71-4 
71-4 
70.9 
70.8 

70.6 
70.5 
70.5 
70.5 
70.4 

70.3 
70.1 
70.1 
70.0 
70.0 

70.0 
69,6 
69.5 
69.4 
69.0 


Collier's 


68.9 
68.7 
68.6 
68.5 
68.5 
68.4 
68.3 
68.3 
67.9 
67.8 

67-7 
67.7 
67.7 
67.7 
67.6 
67.5 
67.5 
67.4 

67.3 
67.2 

67.0 
66.5 
66.4 
66.4 
66.2 
65.8 

64.3 
64.2 
63.6 
63.0 

62.2 
62.0 
61.5 


True Story 


Blue Book 


Dream World 


Motion Picture Classic 


All-Story 


Golden Book 


People's Popular Monthly 


Woman's World 


True Romances 


Needlecraft 


Short Stories 


Capper's Farmer 


All-Star Detective Stories. 


Photoplay 


Clues . . 


Country Gentleman 


Delineator 


Holland's 


Cosmopolitan 


^lotion Picture 


Aces 


Picture Play 


Pictorial Review 


Science and Invention 


Ace-High 


Screen Book 


Gentlewoman 


National Geographic 


Detective Story 


Atlantic Monthly . . . 


College Humor. . ... 


True Detective IVIysteries 


McCalTs 


American Home 


Red Book 


Successful Farming 


Good Housekeeping 


S creenland 


Ladies' Home Journal 


Popular Mechanics 


Farmer's Wife 


New Movie 


Field and Stream . . , 


Rotarian .... . ... 


Tudffe 


Venue 


Holiday 


National Farm Journal 


Household ... 


Nation's Business 


American 


Literary Digest . . 


Woman's Home Companion 
Better Homes and Gardens .... 
Saturday TRv^pjmr Po^t 


Popular Science 


Pathfinder 


House and Garden 


World's Work 


Radio News 


Sky Riders 


Time 


Outdoor Life 


Review of Reviews 






Mtother's Home Life 


Mean 69 


.24.28 

.37-2o 




S.D 3 





160 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

so far as syllabic word-length is concerned, and half are more 
difficult than Mother's Home Life, since the median percentage 
of monosyllables is located between these two magazines. One- 
fourth of the magazines in this class contain more monosyl- 
lables, on the average, than College Humor or McCalVs^ bound- 
aries for the third quartile; whereas one-fourth contain a small- 
er percentage of monosyllables than Atlantic Monthly y which 
marks the first quartile. 

In order to give a still more concrete notion of the degree of 
variability indicated by the statistical measures in Table 
XXXVII and at the same time illustrate differences among 
individual magazines listed in Table XLI, we have shown graph- 
ically in Figure n the percentage of monosyllables in the thou- 
sand-word sampling of five magazines. These periodicals repre- 
sent points of variability among the magazines studied. Ranch 
Romances represents the highest point in the range of monosyl- 
lables and is therefore considered the easiest magazine; College 
Humor represents the third quartile; Mother's Home Life y the 
median; Atlantic Monthly -, the first quartile; and Review of Re- 
views, the lowest point in the range. The last-mentioned maga- 
zine is presumably the most difficult from the point of view of 
word-length. The percentage of monosyllables is shown for ten 
hundred-word samplings, in ascending order from lowest to 
highest. For example, in Ranch Romances, there are 64 per cent 
of monosyllables in one hundred-word unit, 72, per cent in each 
of two hundred-word units, 73 per cent in one unit, and so on, 
to the highest percentage, 83, occurring in one hundred-word 
unit. Percentages for other magazines shown in the figure may 
be read in the same way. The figure indicates that there is 
marked variability among magazines with respect to the per- 
centage of monosyllables they contain. 

A study of differences among specific materials naturally leads 
to a study of likenesses. That is to say, if we set out to discover 
how magazines differ among others of their class in word-length, 
we shall end by discovering which ones approximately agree in 
word-length. This appears desirable, for if knowledge of the 




111 

J ^H f \L 





iil 



8 a 



Fio. n. Percentage of monosyllables in 1,000 words in the reading material of 
fire selected magazines. 



1 62 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

characteristic features of reading material is to function for any 
practical purpose, it should enable one to recommend to a 
reader not just this magazine, but this, or this, or this. 

Examination of Table XLI reveals seventeen magazines 
whose percentage of monosyllables varies not more than I per 
cent in either direction from the mean. They are: American, 
Better Homes and Gardens, Blue Book, Capper s Farmer, Collier's, 
Golden Book, Liberty, Mother s Home Life, Motion Picture Clas- 
sic, Needlecraft, Outdoor Life, Photoplay, Saturday Evening Post, 
Sky Riders, World's Work, Woman's Home Companion, and 
Woman's World. It appears from this list that the reader whose 
interest leads him to World's Work need not anticipate encoun- 
tering any longer words on the average than he may find in 
Saturday Evening Post or Liberty, since all belong to the group 
tentatively designated of "average" difficulty. If the first of 
these three magazines is more difficult than the other two, then 
it is clear that other elements than word-length must contribute 
to the difficulty. 

Further study of the table shows that the reader whose taste 
leads him to All-Story, Dream World, Ranch Romances, and 
True Story is reading 75 per cent monosyllables; while he who 
reads the more serious content of Radio News, Review of Reviews, 
and Time is reading material in which the percentage of mono- 
syllables is lowest among general magazines. The first four are 
obviously easiest of general magazines, and the last three, the 
hardest, in so far as percentage of monosyllables may be taken 
as a single index of difficulty. 

Despite the fact that we have identified only a few magazines 
as "easy," "average," or "difficult," we do not presume to have 
exhausted the classification, for the reason that we have defined 
categories arbitrarily. To be classified in any one of these cate- 
gories a magazine must contain monosyllabic words within I per 
cent of some particular statistical measure. We might quite as 
well have said within 2 per cent or 3 per cent, except for the 
reason that classifications are likely to be misleading if they are 
not defined rather rigorously. The relative difficulty of each 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 163 



magazine can be defined above or below the mean, near to an 
extreme or far from it, 

DIFFERENCES IN SYLLABIC WORD-LENGTH IN 
MAGAZINES OF DIFFERENT CONTENT 

We now turn to consider the occurrence of monosyllables and 
polysyllables in three different classes of magazines: magazines 
of general fiction, of information, and of woman's interests. The 
basis of these classifications is given by Ayers. 








I 



1 



111 



'5 





/a -O 
O CJ 



Monosyllables ----- Polysyllables 



FIG. 11. Proportionate occurrence of monosyllables and polysyllables in maga- 
zines of general fiction. 

Figures 12, 13, and 14 give profiles of the three classes of mag- 
azines with respect to the mean percentage of monosyllables and 
polysyllables contained in them, when compared with the mean 
percentage for all magazines. The base line of each figure repre- 
sents the mean of all syllabic word-lengths. The word-length 
for each magazine is expressed in terms of units of standard 
deviation, 8 which are shown in the figure on an absolute scale. 

8 The following formula was used in transmuting the means to units of standard 
deviation: ^ Q , In which X indicates the mean of the magazine; Mx y the mean of 
the distribution; and ?.D., the standard deviation. See Holzinger, op, cit. 9 pp. 118-22. 



164 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

Lines extending above the mean indicate positive deviations; 
lines extending below the mean, negative deviations. The un- 
broken line represents monosyllables; the broken line, polysyl- 
lables. Bisyllables and trisyllables are omitted from the figures 
for the sake of clarity. 

An analysis of the profiles shows the magazines which are 
of average difficulty with respect to word-length and those 



r( 






S 5 "R * 

i titsji. 

'rri IJi-HSs 

,3 *4S * *** *** ^i "5p S SJ ^ *"^ 

Monosyllables Polysyllables 

FIG. 13. Proportionate occurrence of monosyllables and polysyllables in maga- 
zines of general information. 

which are relatively easy or difficult. For example, Collier's ap- 
proaches the mean for all magazines, and may be said to be of 
"average" reading difficulty. Similar observations may be made 
in regard to other magazines whose relation to the mean shows 
relatively the same narrow deviation. Distinctly easy reading 
in terms of word-length is shown for All-Story, Dream World, 
Ranch Romances, Short Stories, and True Story. For these maga- 
zines the deviation of monosyllables is from one to two sigmas 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 165 

above the mean, and the deviation of polysyllables approxi- 
mately as far below the mean. For Atlantic Monthly,, Nation's 
Business, and Review of Reviews, deviations are in the opposite 
direction. Low negative deviations indicate a relatively small 
percentage of monosyllables. High positive deviations indicate 
a percentage of polysyllables conspicuously above the mean for 
all magazines. 





Monosyllables Polysyllables 



FIG. 14. Proportionate occurrence of monosyllables and polysyllables in maga- 
zines of woman's interests. 

An inspection of these figures leads to fairly definite conclu- 
sions with respect to monosyllabic and polysyllabic words found 
in magazines of similar content. Figure 12 shows that magazines 
of general fiction, with the exception of Atlantic Monthly and 
Blue Book, have a generally high positive deviation from the 
mean, when monosyllables are considered. This indicates that 
they contain one-syllable words considerably above the average 
word-length in all magazines. The figure also shows a generally 
low negative deviation with respect to polysyl ? ables, indicating 
that, with the few exceptions already noted, these magazines 
contain a low percentage of words longer than three syllables. 

In contrast, magazines of information, as shown in Figure 13, 
contain a relatively low percentage of monosyllables and a high 



166 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

percentage of polysyllables. Woman's magazines, as shown in 
Figure 14, tend to deviate slightly, but with fair consistency, in 
a positive direction for monosyllables and in a negative direction 
for polysyllables. In general, the content in these magazines is 
neither so easy as is the content in magazines of general fiction 
nor so difficult as that in magazines of information. 

The major purpose of these figures- is to present facts graphi- 
cally. Yet they do more. They raise questions for which we 
have no answer. For example: Who are the readers of All-Story, 
Ranch Romances, True Story, Dream World, True Romances, 
Short Stories, and other "easy" magazines? Do they read cheap 
fiction because it offers escape from reality, as is commonly be- 
lieved? Or do they read it because it is better adapted to their 
level of reading ability than the higher quality found in Atlantic 
Monthly or Golden Bookt Have they interest in the content of 
Review of Reviews, Radio News, Nation's Business, or Popular 
Science! Do they read these magazines as well as the easier 
ones ? If not, would they read them were the vocabulary sim- 
plified to the level of True Story and Ranch Romances ? But we 
are not dealing with readers primarily. Our concern is chiefly 
with reading materials. The most we can say in answer to such 
questions is that no other magazine material approaches the 
ease of easiest cheap fiction in so far as ease is measured by 
length of word, 

GENERAL MAGAZINES CLASSIFIED BY PERCENTAGE 
OF DIFFERENT WORDS 

Table XLII presents the sixty-eight magazines in order of 
difficulty from Gentlewoman, with 44 per cent of different words, 
to Time, with 55.9 per cent. Twenty-six magazines contain a 
percentage of different words which varies not more than I per 
cent in either direction from the mean, that is, between 49.5 
and 51.5. They are Ace-High, All-Story, American, American 
Home, Better Homes and Gardens, Clues, Cosmopolitan, Farmer's 
Wife, Field and Stream, Holland's, Household, Liberty, National 
Farm Journal, New Movie, Outdoor Life, Picture Play, Popular 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 167 



TABLE XLII 
PERCENTAGE OF DIFFERENT WORDS IN SIXTY-EIGHT GENERAL MAGAZINES 



Magazine 


Percent- 
age of 
Different 
Words 


Magazine 


Percent- 
age of 
Different 
Words 


Gentlewoman 


44.0 

44-1 
46.6 
46.6 
46.8 
47.0 
47-4 
47-6 

47.8 

47-9 

48.2 
48.4 

48.4 
4 8.6 

48.7 
49.0 
49.0 
49-4 
49-5 
49-5 

49-5 
49-7 
49-7 
49-7 
49-7 
49-8 
49-9 
50.0 
50.0 
50.0 

50.2 

50.3 
50.4 

50,4 


Cosmopoli tan 


50.6 
50.8 
51.0 
51.0 
51.1 
51.1 
51-3 
51-3 
51-4 
51-5 

51.6 
51.6 

5 J -7 
51.8 

5i-8 
52.0 
52.1 
52.1 

5 2 - 1 
52.2 

52.3 
52.6 

53-i 
S3-* 
53-5 
53-6 

53-7 
54-i 
54-1 
54.2 

54.3 
54-5 
55 - 
55-9 


Dream World 


True Detective Mysteries 


True Romances 


Household 


Capper's Farmer 


Ace-High 


Aces . ... ... 


Short Stories 


Detective Story 


National Farm Journal . . 


Ranch Romances 


American . 


Radio News 


Sky Riders 


Rotarian 


Popular Mechanics 


People's Popular Monthly 


Farmer's Wife 


Holiday 


Judge 


Needlecraft 


Woman's World ... 


Nation's Business 


Review of Reviews 


Delineator 


Red Book 


College Humor 


Saturday Evening Post 


True Story 


Atlantic Monthly 


All-Star Detective Stories 


Collier's 


Photoplay 


Mother's Home Life . . 


Woman's Home Companion 
Better Homes and Gardens 

World's Work 


McCall's 


Screen Book 


Ladies' Home Journal . . 


Successful Farming 


Motion Picture Classic 


Field and Stream 


Golden Book 


All-Story 


Pictorial Review 


Popular Science Monthly . 


Blue Book 


Science and Invention 


Vogue 


American Home 


Motion Picture 


Clues 


Country Gentleman 


New Movie . 


House and Garden 


Liberty 


Pathfinder 


Screenland 


National Geographic 


Picture Play 


Good Housekeeping 


Outdoor Life 


Literary Digest 


Holland's 


Time 






Mean 5 


o.5.i 9 
41 -i3 


S.D 2 





168 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

Mechanics, Popular Science Monthly, Science and Invention, 
Screenland, Short Stories y Sky Riders, Successful Farming, True 
Detective Mysteries, Woman's Home Companion, and World's 
Work. So diversified is the content represented here that an 
"average" magazine can be selected readily to suit a wide vari- 
ety of tastes and interests. 

Two magazines, Gentlewoman and Dream World, contain the 
lowest percentage of different words and to that extent are 
designated "easiest" among the magazines studied. Two maga- 
zines at the upper end of the scale, namely, Time and Literary 
Digest, are ranked of greatest difficulty with respect to percent- 
age of different words. 

Although there is a tendency for magazines of general infor- 
mation to utilize a larger percentage of different words than 
magazines of fiction, the tendency is not consistent enough in 
itself to warrant the generalization that informational maga- 
zines are more difficult than fiction. However, the former have 
been found by the earlier analysis to contain a percentage of 
monosyllables consistently below the mean. There is some evi- 
dence, then, for the observation that the content of information- 
al magazines is less simply expressed than is that of fiction 
magazines. 

GENERAL MAGAZINES CLASSIFIED BY AVERAGE 
LENGTH OF SENTENCES 

It is always difficult to make reliable distinctions based on 
central tendencies, but it is especially complicating when the 
basis of comparison is, for example, the median of 200 sentences. 
If we say that the median length of sentences in Aces is 13 syl- 
lables and in Review of Reviews 33 syllables, all we have shown 
is that in each magazine half the sentences are longer and half 
are shorter than the median length. How much longer or how 
much shorter they are in their respective halves is not very 
clear. A graphic presentation of the length of sentences sampled 
from the two magazines shown in Figures 15 and 16 makes the 
difference implied by the two medians far more intelligible. 



Page 

3 
6 

9 

12 



18 

21 
!2 4 
27 
30 

33 
36 

39 
42 

45 
4 8 

5* 
54 

57 
60 

63 
66 
69 

7 2 
76 
78 
81 
84 

87 
90 

93 
96 

99 
ioa 
104 




20 30 40 50 60 70 Syllables 



FIG. 15, Analysis of the first 175 sentences in the aoo-sentence unit selected from 
the reading material of Aces. 




3 40 5 



7 8o 90 



no 100 Syllables 



Flo. 1 6. Analysis of the first 175 sentences in the 2oo-sentence unit selected from 
the reading material of Review of Reviews. 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 171 

But to attempt distinctions based on the number of syllables 
in each of the 200 sentences in all the materials analyzed is ob- 
viously impossible. We have, therefore, based our conclusions 
regarding the relative difficulty of different magazines on the 
median sentence-lengths shown in Table XLIII. 

Seventeen magazines with a median sentence-length varying 
not more than two syllables in either direction from the com- 
posite median are: American, Blue Book, Capper's Farmer, Col- 
lier s> Household, Judge, Liberty, McCall's, Mother's Home Life, 
Motion Picture, New Movie, Photoplay, Picture Play, Saturday 
Evening Post, S Greenland, Screen Book, and Woman's World. 
All of the motion-picture magazines and several of the so-called 
"home" magazines are included in this "average" group. Short- 
est sentences as determined by their median lengths occur in 
Aces, All-Story, All-Star Detective Story, Pictorial Review^ and 
Detective Story. These are the easiest general magazines. The 
hardest magazines, with respect to length of sentence, are 
American Home, Atlantic Monthly, Radio News, Review of Re- 
views, Rotarian, and Science and Invention. 

That the easiest magazines are generally fiction, and the 
hardest, magazines of information, is shown in Figures 17 and 
18. As may reasonably be expected, magazines of general fiction 
show less consistent deviation with respect to sentence-length 
than magazines of information. The former group includes both 
wood-pulp magazines, whose chief virtue is simplicity, and 
quality magazines like Atlantic Monthly, whose chief defect is 
complexity. 

GENERAL MAGAZINES RANKED BY PERCENTAGE 
OF SIMPLE SENTENCES 

Table XLIV presents the facts concerning the percentage of 
simple sentences in different magazines. The area of difficulty 
defined by simple sentences extends from Sky Riders, with 62, 
per cent, to Atlantic Monthly, with 27 per cent. These two maga- 
zines represent quite distinct degrees of difficulty. The first con- 
tains from 3 to 5 per cent more simple sentences than the next 



172 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



TABLE XLIII 

RANGE OP SYLLABIC SENTENCE-LENGTH AND MEDIAN SENTENCE-LENGTH 
IN SIXTY-EIGHT GENERAL MAGAZINES 



Magazines 


Range 


Me- 
dian 


Magazines 


Range 


Me- 
dian 


Aces 


CC I 


1*1.0 


Photoplay 


71-1 


22. 


All-Story 


jj 
60-1 


I7.O 


New Movie 


72-1 


22. 


All-Star Detective Story 


76-1 


Ho 


Picture Play 


Q7-2 


22. C 


Pictorial Review 


i\ji 

IO1--I 


Ho 


Capper*s Farmer 


81-4 


2^.O 


Detective Story 


* w o 

7O I 


T/f O 


Judge 


QI-I 


21 .0 


Clues .... 


/CTI 

62-2 


I<.O 


Woman's World 


9T~ a 


23.0 


Sky Riders 


<A I 


K.O 


Successful Farming 


98-4 


24.0 


Ranch. Romances 


61-1 


1< O 


Farmer's Wife 


1 1 1-2 


ac.o 


Gentlewoman 


89-2 


* J ' w 
1C .C 


Ladies' Home Journal. . . . 


140-2 


25.0 


College Humor 


1 2 1-2 


16.0 


Golden Book 


1 7 1-1 


2C.O 


People's Popular Monthly . 


7-1-1 


16.0 


Country Gentleman 


14.1 I 


2C.O 


Dream World 


72-1 


17 O 


Time 


IOI 2 


2C.C 


Ace-High 


I* * 
64 I 


*/ w 
17. 


National Geographic 


01 I 


s * 
26.O 


True Story. , , 


1 06-2 


17.0 


National Farm Journal . . . 


IOI-3 


26.O 


Delineator. 


IIC-2 


17. 


Better Homes and Gardens 


84.-! 


27.O 


Cosmopolitan 


IIC-2 


18 o 


Outdoor Life 


I^A~2 


iS.O 


Red Book . 


** j * 
Q2-I 


18.0 


Popular Science 


714 


28.O 


Miotion Picture Classic 


87-1 


18 c 


Holland's 


JO^2 


28 o 


True Romance 


77-1 


w j 
i8.c 


Holiday 


J.V-/J 

IOO;-! 


28. < 


Woman's Home Compan- 






Vogue 


IOT-2 


2Q O 


ion 


QO-2 


10. 






*y -^ 








Field and Stream 


8o-2 


2Q < 


Good Housekeeping 


6o-I 


10. 


House and Garden 


y 

IOI -2 


y ' j 

1O. O 


True Detective Mysteries 


lOQ-I 


IQ.O 


Needlecraft 


in i 


7O < 


Short Stories 


77-1 


IQ.O 


Nation's Business 


1 80-1 


J w J 
11 .0 


Screen. Book 


02 I 


20. 


Popular Mechanics 


no 2 


11 O 


Motion Picture 


7 

IOO-I 


20.0 


Pathfinder 


106-2 


11 .0 


Collier's 


81-1 


2O. O 


World's Work 


IOQ I 


11 O 


Household . , , , 


Q2-2 


2O, C 


Literary Digest 


* 7 J. 

no-2 


11 .0 


Blue Book 


08-1 


20. C 


American Home. 


82-1 


12 O 


Liberty 


1022 


2O C 


Science and Invention 


lA.11 


rtn o 


McCaU's 


06 I 


21 .O 




1 T X 


J-* - v 








Atlantic Monthly 


2O2-I 


12. 


Saturday Evening Post. . . 


C2-I 


21 .0 


Rotarian 


182-2 


11 .0 


Screenland 


I2C-I 


21 


Radio News 


lAl*-A 


11 O 


Mother's Home Life 


<X 2 


21 .0 


Review of Reviews .... 


121 1 


JJ - u 
11 . C 


Amprtfflti 


no n 


rt r 






oo * ,) 




93-2 




Composite median . 




21 C 








O 




** O 
4..Q 















/ 


\ 


1 
t 


\ 

\ 


A 

/'x 



I 



1 1 1 ^ I 1 18 I 

FIG. 17. Syllabic length of sentences in magazines of general fiction 



- v 



/- 



FIG. 1 8. Syllabic length of sentences in magazines of general information 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



TABLE XLIV 

PERCENTAGE OF SIMPLE SENTENCES IN THE READING MATERIAL 
or SIXTY-EIGHT GENERAL MAGAZINES 



MAGAZINE 


TYPE 




TYPE 




Simple 




Simple 


Sky Riders . . 


62.0 


American Home 


4.C.C 


Time 


CQ.O 


American 


AC.C 


People's Popular Monthly. 


jy m ^ 
C7.O 


House and Garden 


4<.O 


All-Star Detective Stories 


*t 
r6. C 


Nation's Business 


AA , C 


Popular Mechanics 


3 W - ^ 
C4..O 


Collier's 


4.4.. O 


Ace-High 


JT- 4V/ 

<4.O 


College Humor 


4?. ^ 


Clues .... 


<4..O 


Woman's World 


4,*^ O 


New Movie * 




Blue Book 


4^.0 


Woman's Home Companion. . . 


<2.{ 


Ladies' Home Journal 


4^.O 


Pictorial Review 




All-Story 


4.7. 


Successful Farming 


<2.O 


Saturday Evening Post 


4.2-. O 


Motion Pictures. . . . 




Science and Invention 


4.2. 


Aces. . . 


<I < 


Delineator 


4.2. 


Capper's Farmer 


n .0 


Gentlewoman 




Short Stories. 


<I ,O 


Radio News . . 


4.1 < 


Needlecraft 


j * v 
to. c 


Tudff e 


*** 5 
4.1 . <f 


Pathfinder 


<o.o 


Mother's Home Life 


4.1 .0 


Detective Story Magazine 


co.o 


Red Book 


4.1 .O 


Better Homes and Gardens . . 


AQ r 


Cosmopolitan. . . 


Al O 


Country Gentleman 


f T7' J 

4,0. 


Literary Digest 


4.O. C 


Screen Book 


4,0.0 


Holiday , 


4.O C 


Popular Science Monthly 


48.0 


Good Housekeeping , 


4.O.O 


Review of Reviews 


4.7 < 


Household 


1Q C 


National Geographic 


*P/ O 
4.7. < 


True Detective Mysteries 


oy 3 

^Q C 


Photoplay , 


T/ ' J 

4.7.4 


Holland's 


jy o 

*}Q < 


Screenland 


T 1 / * J 

4.7. < 


Golden Book 


O7* J 
*?o c 


Farmer's Wife 


TV ' J 

4.7. C 


Field and Stream . ... 


*?6 ^ 


Outdoor Life .... 


T 1 / O 

4.7.X 


True Story . . . 


76 o 


Rotarian 


4/O 

46. c 


Picture Play 


JW/.W 

74.. C 


National Farm Journal* 


4.6. < 


True Romances 


JT" } 
74. O 


McCall's 


46.0 


World's Work 


j<j,.w 
74. O 


Vogue 


4.C.< 


Ranch Romances. , * 


77 O 


Motion. Picture Classic 


4.C.C 


Dream World . 


JJ * w 


Liberty , 


T-J O 

4.C.C 


Atlantic Monthly 


27 O 




T"J J 




*/ <w 






Mean 4^ 


tf 






S.D 6 


7^i .39 











HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 175 

easiest magazines, Time, People's Popular Monthly, and All Star 
Detective Stories. And Atlantic Monthly contains about 6 per 
cent less than Dream World and Ranch Romances, the next most 
difficult magazines as defined by the occurrence of simple sen- 
tences. Since the last two magazines have heretofore been 
ranked "easy," the classification by simple sentences appears 
contradictory. An examination of Table XLIV shows that other 
fiction magazines also contain a relatively low percentage of 
simple sentences. This, too, seems contrary to expectations. 
One possible explanation lies in the fact that fiction, especially 
of the cheaper sort, uses a large amount of conversation ex- 
pressed in sentence-fragments, the meaning of which is implied 
by the emotional tone of the conversation. For example, 9 per 
cent of the sentences in Red Book are of this sort. In Ranch 
Romances, sentence-fragments number 7.5 per cent; in Aces, 14 
per cent. 

In the average group with respect to simplicity of sentences 
are ranked American, American Home, Collier's, House and Gar- 
den, Liberty, McCall's, Motion Picture Classic, National Farm 
Journal, Nation's Business, Rotarian, and Vogue. 

GENERAL MAGAZINES IN COMPOSITE RANKING 
OF DIFFICULTY 

Having shown the relative difficulty of the magazines studied 
by rankings on the basis of four elements of difficulty, we are 
now in a position to show the composite ranking of these mag- 
azines from all the facts available. Table XLV gives a com- 
posite classification of magazines as "easy," "average," or "diffi- 
cult." Although in general this classification represents the 
trend of difficulty shown in earlier tables, some supplementary 
data have been used not presented in this report. They were 
obtained by analyzing doubtful magazines for occurrence of 
different hard words, words not known to 90 per cent of sixth- 
grade children, easy words, personal pronouns, and preposition- 
al phrases. 

Magazines classified in Table XLV are, therefore, those 



I 7 6 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



which hold relatively the same position of difficulty by three or 
more analyses. Magazines excluded from this classification 
either fail to fall consistently within one of the three categories 
or fall generally outside the areas designated "easy/* "average/* 
or "difficult/* Their relative difficulty may be estimated rough- 
ly from their rankings in Tables XLI-XLIV. 

TABLE XLV 

RELATIVE DIFFICULTY OF GENEILA.L MAGAZINES BY COMPOSITE 

CLASSIFICATION ON THE BASIS OF FOUR 

ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY 



Easy 



Aces 
All-Story 
Dream World 
Clues 

Gentlewoman 
True Romances 



Average 



American 

American Home 

Better Homes and Gardens 

Collier's 

McCail's 

Mother's Home Life 

Capper's Farmer 

Sky Riders 

Picture Play 

New Movie 

Liberty 

Motion Picture Classic 

Cosmopolitan 

Saturday Evening Post 

Outdoor Life 

House and Garden 

World's Work 



Difficult 



Atlantic Monthly 
Literary Digest 
Pathfinder 
Radio News 
Review of Reviews 



From the facts pertaining to the occurrence of significant ele- 
ments of difficulty in general magazines, the following conclu- 
sions seem warranted: 

1. It is evident that definite strata of difficulty exist among 
general magazines when difficulty is measured by the presence 
or absence of certain structural elements. 

2. There is marked agreement among rankings by individual 
elements for those magazines defined as "easy/* "average," or 
"difficult." Less agreement exists among magazines at inter- 
mediary positions. 

3. If a magazine consistently ranks of the same relative diffi- 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 177 

culty by three or more single elements, the use of a larger num- 
ber of elements is usually unnecessary. 

4. It seems significant to note that magazines which rank 
"average" are the most popular magazines. They represent the 
widest circulation among all magazines. One-third have a circu- 
lation above 2,000,000; one-half, above 1,000,000; and two- 
thirds, above 200,000. Several inferences may be drawn. One is 
that their content is what most magazine readers want to read 
about. Another is that the average difficulty of their content 
is suited to the reading ability of most magazine readers. A 
third is that editors of these "average" magazines definitely aim 
to reach a large number of readers by means of interesting con- 
tent, easy expression, popular price, and other factors. For ex- 
ample, Liberty and American rank "average" by every measure 
applied in this section. They are typical average magazines, 
then, when difficulty is measured by structural elements sig- 
nificantly related to difficulty. 

5. Circulation figures for magazines designated "easy" show 
that all are purchased and presumably read by more than 
200,000 persons, and one by more than 1,000,000. We can only 
conjecture as to whether readers of these magazines actually 
prefer low-grade, all-fiction content; whether their ability to 
read is best served by these magazines; or whether, having 
found a certain pleasure in effortless reading, they are too in- 
dolent to learn to like anything better. 

6. Magazines rated most difficult tend to be in least demand 
among adult readers. Less than one-half have circulation figures 
above 200,000. 

7. Writers on politics, world-news, and informational ma- 
terial in general tend to use longer words and sentences than do 
writers of fiction. With respect to percentage of different words, 
they seem to follow no general practice. There is evidence that 
although the thought-content expressed by these writers may 
be harder than fiction, words used in expressing it may or may 
not be greatly diversified. 

8. Writers who make their appeal to the primary and ele- 
mental interests of their readers tend to utilize the simplest 



178 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

structural elements and, consequently, to produce materials 
easiest to read. 

HOW DO NEWSPAPERS VARY WITH RESPECT TO 
ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY? 

This question is answered by Tables XLVI-XLIX. In each, 
the fifteen newspapers are listed in order of difficulty, as deter- 
mined by the occurrence of a specific element of difficulty. For 

TABLE XLVI 

PERCENTAGE OP MONOSYLLABLES IN THE READING MATERIAL 
OF FIFTEEN NEWSPAPERS 

-_ Monosyl- 

Newspaper lables 

Chicago Daily Times .......................... 70. 6 

Capper's Weekly .............................. 68.9 

Riceville Recorder ............................ 67. 5 

Chicago Tribune .............................. 65 .4 

New York Evening Graphic .................... 64. 9 

New York News .............................. 64. 8 

Boston Post .................................. 64 . 4 

Edmore Herald-News .......................... 64 . 3 

Christian Science Monitor ...................... 62 . 7 

Los Angeles Times ............................. 62.3 

Chicago American ............................. 62.2 

New York Journal ............................. 62 . o 

Philadelphia Evening Bulletin ................... 62.0 

Jefferson Banner .............................. 61.7 

Olney Daily Mail .............................. 61 .3 

Mean .............................. 64:3 ^47 

S.D ................................ 



example, in Table XLVI the Chicago Daily Times is easiest and 
the Olney Daily Mail, hardest, with respect to monosyllables. 
In Table XL VII the Riceville Recorder, with 46.2 per cent of 
different words, ranks easiest; and the Los Angeles Times, with 
53.2 per cent, ranks hardest. Data presented in these tables 
support the facts revealed by Tables XXXVII-XL to the effect 
that newspapers as a class tend to agree fairly closely in their 
use of elements of expression included in this study. For this 
reason we have made no attempt to classify the fifteen news- 
papers according to relative difficulty. 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 179 

In so far as the data warrant, we may define the relative diffi- 
culty of newspapers as a class in terms of specific publications. 
For example, the area of difficulty represented by the fifteen 
newspapers studied extends from the level of Capper s Weekly 
and the Chicago Daily Times to that of the Los Angeles Times 
and Christian Science Monitor. Between these two extremes, 
which are after all not conspicuously different, lies an interme- 
diate area. This area is generally characterized by village week- 

TABLE XLVII 

PERCENTAGE or DIFFERENT WORDS IN FIFTEEN NEWSPAPERS 

Percentage of 

Newspaper Different 

Words 

Riceville Recorder 46 . 2 

Capper's Weekly 48 .5 

Edmore Herald-News 49 . 5 

Chicago Tribune 50.3 

Philadelphia Evening Bulletin 50.3 

Chicago Daily Times 50.6 

New York News 51 .o 

New York Evening Graphic 51 .3 

Boston Post 51 .6 

Chicago American 51 .7 

Jefferson Banner 51.9 

Christian Science Monitor 52 . a, 

Olney Daily Mail 52.5 

New York Journal 53 . 1 

Los Angeles Times 53 . 2 

Mean 50.9 .31 

S.D i .77 . 22 

ly papers, such as Edmore Herald-News and Jefferson Banner, 
the difficulty of which tends to merge on the one side with that 
of graphics and on the other with the usual large daily news- 
paper. 

OCCURRENCE OF SIGNIFICANT ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY 
IN DIFFERENT CLASSES OF NEWSPAPERS 

Interesting differences are revealed by comparing the occur- 
rence of elements of difficulty in newspapers published pri- 



i8o 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



marily to serve a particular class of readers. Figure 19 shows 
these differences in percentage of monosyllables and polysyl- 
lables. In large daily newspapers, excluding graphics, monosyl- 
lables tend to deviate negatively from the mean; and polysyl- 
lables, positively. In graphics, the direction of the deviations is 
reversed. In other words, the reader who extracts his news in 

TABLE XLVIII 

RANGE OF SYLLABIC SENTENCE-LENGTH AND MEDIAN SENTENCE- 
LENGTH IN FIFTEEN NEWSPAPERS 



Newspaper 


Syllabic 
Range 


Median 


Olney Daily Mail 


82-2 


21. < 


Capper's Weekly 


122-4 


22. 


New York Kvening Graphic 




26 c 


New York News 


QO-I 


27.0 


Chicago Daily Times 




20 O 


Los Angeles Times 


112-4 


11 O 


Chicago American 


8 1-7 


11 O 


Riceville Recorder. 


110-6 


33 o 


Jefferson Banner 


126-4 


14 O 


Boston Post 


II4-1 


34 *^ 


New York Journal 


IOI 4 


35 o 


Philadelphia Evening Bulletin 




16 o 




o6-{ 




Christian Science Monitor. ... 


126 


10 


Kdmore Herald-News 


*\J 2 
I4O I 


C 






4 -5 



Composite median . 

Q 



literal form from the usual daily newspaper reads a larger per- 
centage of long words than does the person who reads the pic- 
ture newspaper with its minimum of print. Does the latter 
reader prefer the picture newspaper because pictures provide 
easy reading or because short words make reading easy? Or 
is there another factor than ease that accounts for the pref- 
erence? Again, the question suggests the kind of information 
needed to explain why people read what they do. 
The easiest paper illustrated in the figure is the Chicago Daily 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 181 

Times; the hardest, the Christian Science Monitor. Inasmuch 
as village and rural papers show no consistent tendency toward 
simplicity or complexity as measured by word-length, they are 
not given in the diagram. 

Despite the close agreement among newspapers with respect 
to percentage of different words shown in Table XL VII, there 

TABLE XLIX 

PERCENTAGE OF SIMPLE SENTENCES IN THE READING 
MATERIAL OF FIFTEEN NEWSPAPERS 

TYPE OF SENTENCE 

NEWSPAPER STRUCTURE 

Simple 

Los Angeles Times 50 .o 

Olney Daily Mail 50 .o 

Capper's Weekly 49 .o 

New York Evening Graphic 47 ,o 

Jefferson Banner 44 .o 

New York News 44.0 

Chicago Daily Times 44 .o 

Riceville Recorder 42 .o 

Philadelphia Evening Bulletin 42.0 

Chicago American 40 . o 

Chicago Tribune 38 .o 

Christian Science Monitor 37 .o 

Boston Post 37.0 

New York Journal 30.0 

Edmore Herald-News 28 .o 



Mean 4i.46i.i2 

S.D 6.42! .79 

is a tendency for the vocabulary of village and rural papers to 
be slightly less diversified than that of large daily papers. Al- 
though the difference in range of different words is on the aver- 
age no more than 7 per cent, it is enough to show the influence 
of cosmopolitan news on difficulty. 

When lengths of sentences are compared (Fig. 20), it may be 
noted that large daily newspapers, exclusive of graphics, on the 
average contain longer sentences than the mean sentence-length 
for all newspapers. Graphics, on the other hand, employ shorter 



\\ 


/f\ 




* 1 -- . 


-*-** 


--''I 


>v"X 




V 


->s^__ 










1 






1 












cq 






1 








R 


1 


1 








s 


.BorfoH POJ/ 
Chicago America 


cfc'ogg* n//^ T 


^ Christian Scienc 


5 

New York Jourr 

a 

y 



LOJ Angeles Tin 


j Philadelphia tt 




e 
^> 

2 



y 



New York 




I 
I 



FIG. 19.- Proportionate occurrence of monosyllables and polysyllables in daily 
newspapers, 






I 



I 



I 
3 



I I 

i l 



Fio. ao. Syllabic length of sentences in daily newspapers 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 183 

sentences than the common mean. The longest sentences occur 
in Christian Science Monitor, which also contains the lowest 
percentage of monosyllables and a diversity of vocabulary above 
the median. No generalization can be made with respect to the 
length of sentences that characterize rural and village papers. 
Two papers in this class, however. Capper s Weekly and Olney 
Daily Mail, use the shortest sentences among the newspapers 
studied. The facts from which Figure 20 was derived seem to 
suggest that rural and village publications employ a simplicity of 
expression, as measured by sentence-length, more nearly like 
graphics than other daily newspapers. 

Distinctions between different types of newspapers with re- 
spect to sentence-form may be obtained from Table XLIX. 
The facts presented suggest that picture newspapers which con- 
tain a percentage of simple sentences above the common mean 
are probably easier than other metropolitan papers containing 
a percentage of simple sentences below the mean. Rural and 
village publications do not vary markedly in either direction 
from common practice. 

WHAT DIFFERENCES EXIST AMONG DEPARTMENTS 
OF NEWSPAPERS? 

Inasmuch as newspaper material on the whole tends toward 
a consistent use of different structural elements, question may 
be raised as to whether separate departments of newspapers 
agree as closely* We, therefore, have analyzed word-lengths in 
each of nine departments chosen for study with the following 
results: (i) More agreement in the use of monosyllables exists 
in "Local News" than in any other department. (2) Least agree- 
ment is found in "Washington News." (3) The range of poly- 
syllables is widest in "Editorials" and narrowest in "Local 
News." (4) The highest percentage of polysyllables occurs in 
"Washington News" and the lowest in "Local News." (5) Large 
daily papers tend to use a lower percentage of monosyllables in 
their "Local News" than do village papers. (6) Although indi- 
vidual newspapers vary the proportionate word-lengths in dif- 



184 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



ferent departments, there is no evidence to indicate that they 
follow any definite practice except in "Local News." 

DIFFERENCES AMONG TWENTY-NINE BOOKS WITH 
RESPECT TO LENGTH OF WORD 

Table L brings out the differences in syllabic word-length 
found in an analysis of twenty-nine books. It will be remem- 

TABLE L 

PERCENTAGE OF MONOSYLLABLES IN THE READING 
MATERIAL OF TWENTY-NINE BOOKS 



Book 


Percent- 
age of 
Mono- 
syllables 


Book 


Percent- 
age of 
Mono- 
syllables 


Robinson Crusoe (adapted) .... 
Carl and Anna 


83.3 
81 2 


Reading and Living, Book III. . 
Cimarron 


72.9 

72 6 


Huckleberry Finn 


70.7 


Moby Dick (original) 


72. 


All Quiet on the Western Front 


/?/ 
77 6 


Silas Marner (original) 


72 O 


Reading and Living, Book I . 


77. C 


Poe's Tales 


71 . 1 


Robinson Crusoe (original) 


76 Q 


Scarlet Letter, The 


6q 7 


Bible 


7C.Q 


Byron 


uy./ 
DO 1 


Reading and Living, Book II . , , 


7<-Q 


Preface to Morals, A 


v y -J 

68 q 


Silas Marner (adapted) 


7^.8 


Henry the Eighth . ... 


68 6 


Moby Dick (adapted) 


/ j w 
7<.A 


Last of the Mohicans, The, . . 


68 c 


Peder Victorious ... 


7C.I 


Art of Living The 


68 4 


Roper's Row 


7{,O 


Elizabeth and Essex 


66 2 


Angel Pavement , 


74.. 7 


Tragic Era, The 


61 .0 




7- j *7 






White Oaks of Jalna . 


74-7 

73 2 


Mean 7*3 


A 4- ff 


Story of San Michele, The 


7T.O 


S.D A 


T - 1 - bb 

A2"f~ TO 








4-* -t. -oy 



beted that these books include popular novels, popular general 
books, standard fiction, and simplified classics. 

The area of difficulty shown in the table extends from the 
adapted Robinson Crusoe, with 83.3 per cent of monosyllables, 
to The Tragic Era, with 61.9 per cent. Three areas of difficulty 
are rather sharply defined. In the "average" group are Angel 
Pavement, Cimarron, Peder Victorious, Roper's Row, Scarlet 
Sister Mary, White Oaks of Jalna, and Reading and Living, 
Book III. What this statement seems to imply is that, with the 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 185 

exception of one novel, All Quiet on the Western Front., which is 
apparently easier than those just listed, all popular novels 
studied contain an average proportion of short words about like 
that in a randomly selected reading text for sixth grade. 

Books which contain the lowest percentage of monosyllables 
belong to the class designated "popular general books," They 
are: The Art of Thinking, A Preface to Morals, Elizabeth and 



K 



. 

N O BS N ^ ^ % 

Monosyllables Polysyllables 

FIG. 11 . Proportionate occurrence of monosyllables and polysyllables in popular 
novels. 

Essex, and The Tragic Era. At the opposite extreme of the list 
are Robinson Crusoe (adapted), Reading and Living, Book I, 
Carl and Anna, Huckleberry Finn, and All Quiet on the Western 
Front. These are the easiest books, when word-length is taken 
as a single index of difficulty. 

Figures 21 and 1*2 support the facts already presented, that 
popular novels are about of average difficulty and popular gen- 
eral books are most difficult among the books studied. The pro- 
files of popular fiction show relatively little deviation from the 
mean for monosyllables and polysyllables. Popular general 
books, on the other hand, commonly show a negative deviation 
for monosyllables and a positive deviation for polysyllables. 



i86 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



BOOKS CLASSIFIED ACCORDING TO VOCABULARY DIVERSITY 

The conclusion to be drawn from an analysis of extent of vo- 
cabulary, Table LI, is that more agreement than variation per- 
sists among the books studied, except in those whose writers 
have consciously attempted to reduce the size of vocabulary for 




3 



4 



* * 



e 

i 

I 



^ 4 j 

Monosyllables Polysyllables 

FIG. 22. Proportionate occurrence of monosyllables and polysyllables in popular 
general books. 

the sake of simplicity. For example, Carl and Anna, with basic 
English vocabulary intended "to do the work of the 20,000 com- 
mon words usually required for the same purpose," contains 
25.5 per cent of different words. This is against 42.5 per cent, 
the mean for all books studied, and 50.6 per cent for The Tragic 
Era. Adapted versions of Robinson Crusoe and Silas Marner 
rank close to Carl and Anna. 
Few books vary in any considerable degree from the mean for 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 187 

all books studied. The most difficult has a vocabulary about as 
diversified as a sixth-grade reader, Reading and Living, Book 

TABLE LI 

VOCABULARY DIVERSITY IN TWENTY-NINE BOOKS 

Percentage of 

Book Different 

Words 

Carl and Anna 25 . 5 

Robinson Crusoe (adapted) 29 .6 

Silas Marner (adapted) 35 .4 

Bible 36.1 

Robinson Crusoe (original) 37 . 6 

Huckleberry Finn 37 .7 

Preface to Morals, A 39 . 2 

Moby Dick (adapted) 39.2 

Reading and Living, Book I 41.7 

Angel Pavement 41.7 

All Quiet on the Western Front 41 . 8 

Roper's Row 42. i 

Peder Victorious 42 . 4 

Scarlet Letter, The 43.7 

Art of Thinking, The 44.4 

Silas Marner (original) 44. 8 

Scarlet Sister Mary 44. 8 

Moby Dick (original) 45. i 

Elizabeth and Essex 45 .4 

Poe's Tales 45.9 

Cimarron 45 . 9 

White Oaks of Jalna 46.3 

Last of the Mohicans, The 46. 8 

Story of San Michele, The 46.9 

Byron 47-3 

Henry the Eighth 47.9 

Reading and Living, Book II 48 . i 

Reading and Living, Book III 48 .3 

Tragic Era, The 50.6 

Mean 42. 5 . 69 

S.D 5-58 -49 

III. In the "average" group belong The Art of Thinking, Cimar- 
ron, Elizabeth and Essex, Moby Dick (original) , Peder Victorious, 



i88 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

Poe's Tales, The Scarlet Letter, Scarlet Sister Mary, Silas Marner, 
and White Oaks of Jalna. Again, most of these books are popu- 
lar novels, the "averageness" of which is shown by their slight 
variation from the mean for all books. 

RELATIVE DIFFICULTY OF BOOKS DETERMINED BY 
AVERAGE LENGTH OF SENTENCES 

In the very scattered distribution of books based on median 
length of sentences (Table LII), the original Robinson Crusoe 
ranks highest with a median sentence-length of 87 syllables. A 
Preface to Morals and the original Silas Marner rank next with 
median sentence-lengths of 37 and 36.5 syllables, respectively. It 
seems reasonable to assume that the extraordinary length of sen- 
tences found in Robinson Crusoe does not imply the same sort of 
complexity that characterizes A Preface to Morals. It rather il- 
lustrates the simple run-on, unpunctuated thought-units typical 
of the early tale. Such sentences are in reality simple, if the 
reader supplies the internal punctuation necessary to distinguish 
single thought-units. 

Easiest books, that is, those containing the lowest average 
length of sentence, are Roper's Row, Silas Marner (adapted), 
and Angel Pavement. Popular fiction generally ranks below the 
median length for all books, as exemplified by Reading and Liv- 
ing, Book III, and Henry the Eighth. If Peder Victorious, Scarlet 
Sister Mary, Cimarron, All Quiet on the Western Front, White 
Oaks of Jalna, and other easy books are representative of their 
class, then modern novelists may be said generally to employ 
short sentences. Writers of popular non-fiction, on the other 
hand, tend to use sentences somewhat longer than the median 
length for all books studied. 

BOOKS CLASSIFIED ACCORDING TO SIMPLICITY 
OF SENTENCE FORM 

When facts are considered relative to the structure of sentences 
(Table LIII), Cimarron is found to rank highest in percentage 
of simple sentences and the original Robinson Crusoe, lowest. 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 189 

The former, a modern story of adventure in the pioneer West, 
is a swiftly moving, cinematic panorama of events; whereas the 

TABLE LII 

RANGE OF SYLLABIC SENTENCE-LENGTH AND MEDIAN SENTENCE- 
LENGTH IN TWENTY-NINE BOOKS 



Book 


Syllabic 
Range 


Median 


Robinson Crusoe (original) 


2Q7 1 7 


87 o 


Preface to Morals, A .... 


IC7 < 


07 o 


Silas Marner (original) 


A iJ i 

I D7 2 


J/- u 
06 c 


Last of the Mohicans, The 


176 7 


1A. C 


Art of Thinking, The 


186- 7 


74 O 


Tragic Era The 


IK A 


77 O 


Moby Dick (original) . . . . 


J -*3 *r 

1 86- i 


72 C 


Scarlet Letter, The 


177 2 


71 O 


Story of San Michele, The 


78- 2 


7O. O 


Poe's Tales 


III i 


2Q O 


Bible 


87- 2 


28. c 


Byron 


Q8- 4 


28.O 


Elizabeth and Essex 


118- 2 


28.O 


Henry the Eighth 


17 C- 2 


24.0 


Reading and Living, Book III .... 


04 2 


24. O 


Reading and Living, Book; II 


66- 4 


2O. O 


Reading and Living, Book I 


84- 7 


IQ o 


Huckleberry Finn 


07 i 


IQ O 


Peder Victorious 


yo 

86- 7 


18.0 


Scarlet Sister Mary ' 


81- i 


18.0 


Robinson Crusoe (adapted) 


5<- < 


18.0 


Moby Dick (adapted) 


85- i 


17.0 


Cimarron 


74. 2 


16.0 


All Quiet on the Western Front 


IIQ- 2 


IC.O 


White Oaks of Jalna 


67- I 


ic,o 


Carl and Anna 


8l- 2 


K.o 


Angel Pavement 


143- 2 


H.c 


Silas Marner (adapted) 


36- 7 


I4.O 


Roper's Row 


66- i 


12. 









Composite median 24.0 

Q 7-7 

latter is a leisurely, autobiographical tale of two centuries ago. 
Further analysis of these books shows that the former contains 
not only a high percentage of simple sentences but more than 



190 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

8 per cent of fragmentary sentences. In Robinson Crusoe^ on 
the other hand, the latter kind of sentence is wholly lacking. 

TABLE LIII 

PERCENTAGE OF SIMPLE SENTENCES IN THE READING MATERIAL 
or TWENTY-NINE BOOKS 

Percentage of 

Book Simple 

Sentences 

Cimarron 55 . 5 

Carl and Anna 52.5 

Moby Dick (adapted) 51.0 

Roper's Row 51.0 

All Quiet on the Western Front 46 . 5 

Silas Marner (adapted) 46 .o 

Byron 43-5 

Reading and Living, Book II 43 . 5 

Reading and Living, Book 1 40. 5 

Henry the Eighth 40. o 

Tragic Era, The 40.0 

Art of Thinking, The 39.0 

White Oaks of Jalna 39' 

Scarlet Sister Mary 37. 5 

Reading and Living, Book III 37 .o 

Story of San Michele, The 35.5 

Huckleberry Finn 34. 5 

Angel Pavement 33 . 5 

Peder Victorious 33 .o 

Robinson Crusoe (adapted) 32 .o 

Poe's Tales 30.5 

Scarlet Letter, The 29.0 

Elizabeth and Essex 28,5 

Moby Dick (original) 27 ,o 

Preface to Morals, A 23 . 5 

Last of the Mohicans, The 20.0 

Holy Bible 18.0 

Silas Marner (original) 14.0 

Robinson Crusoe (original) 4.0 

Mean 35, 4 1.46 

S.D ii-7i.o3 

Over 50 per cent are long, loosely constructed, compound-com- 
plex sentences. 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 191 

The average percentage of simple sentences for all twenty- 
nine books is approximately the same as for Reading and Living, 
Book III. It is apparent, therefore, that "average" books, as 
defined by sentence-structure, namely, The Story of San Michele, 
Scarlet Sister Mary, Angel Pavement, Peder Victorious, and 
White Oaks of Jalna, tend to utilize a complexity of expression 
about equivalent to that of a sixth-grade text in reading. As in 
earlier classifications, popular novels, with some exceptions, 
generally comprise the "average" group. This indicates that 
their writers avoid extremes of simplicity or complexity with 
respect to certain significant elements of expression. Inasmuch 
as writers of popular informational books use a percentage of 
simple sentences but slightly below the mean, we should prob- 
ably not accept too readily the notion that simple sentences are 
best adapted to simple ideas. Obviously, difficult ideas may be 
expressed in fairly simple sentences, as popular writers of non- 
fiction exemplify. Conversely, relatively simple ideas may be 
expressed in such involved sentences as we find in The Last of the 
Mohicans, the Bible, the original Moby Dick, Silas Marner, and 
Robinson Crusoe. 

COMPOSITE CLASSIFICATION OF BOOKS FOR 
RELATIVE DIFFICULTY 

What is the agreement represented by all these facts pertain- 
ing to the relative difficulty of the books studied when difficulty 
is defined by isolated elements? What contribution can be made 
by analyzing the books for other elements of difficulty? 

Table LIV brings together all the available evidence bearing 
on these two questions. It shows the relative difficulty of books 
as revealed by the analysis of the four elements just presented 
and by the additional analysis of four other elements. The first 
four are, again, percentage of monosyllables, percentage of differ- 
ent words, syllabic sentence-length, and percentage of simple 
sentences. The other four are number of different hard words, 
percentage of easy words, number of personal pronouns, and 



192 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



number of prepositional phrases. Details of the supplementary 
analysis for the occurrence of the last four elements have not 
been included in this report. 

TABLE LIV 

BOOKS DEFINED AS RELATIVELY "EASY," "AVERAGE," OR "DIFFI- 
CULT" BY THE OCCURRENCE OF EIGHT ELEMENTS 
OF DIFFICULTY 



Easy 



Average 



Difficult 



Robinson Crusoe (adapted) 
Silas Marner (adapted) 
Carl and Anna 
Reading and Living, Book I 



Angel Pavement 

Bible 

Byron 

Cimarron 

Moby Dick (original) 

Scarlet Sister Mary 

All Quiet on the Western 

Front 

Roper's Row 
Peder Victorious 
White Oaks of Jalna 
Reading and Living, 

Book III 



Art of Thinking, The 
Elizabeth and Essex 
Last of Mohicans, The 
Preface to Morals, A 
Tragic Era, The 



SUMMARY 



The aim of this chapter was to analyze adult magazines, news- 
papers, and books for the purpose of determining differences 
among reading materials of a class with respect to certain ele- 
ments which indicate their relative ease or difficulty. The anal- 
ysis was directed toward a study of four significant elements: 
percentage of monosyllables, percentage of different words, syl- 
labic length of sentences, and percentage of simple sentences. 

In interpreting results of the analysis, we have designated 
certain materials as "average," "easy," or "difficult/' A maga- 
zine of average difficulty, for example, is one in which the oc- 
currence of a particular element approximates the mean occur- 
rence of that element for the sixty-eight magazines studied. 
Deviations from the mean in the direction of simplicity or com- 
plexity mark other materials as easy or difficult respectively. 



HOW ADULT READING MATERIALS DIFFER 193 

Inasmuch as this designation of materials as "easy" or "diffi- 
cult" is purely relative, it is clear that a particular magazine, 
for example, may be ranked as "easy" when compared with 
certain other magazines, yet be ranked "difficult" when com- 
pared with still others. Hence, we cannot say that House and 
Garden is a difficult magazine, except in comparison with other 
of the sixty-eight general magazines studied. Neither can we 
say that the Los Angeles Times is a difficult newspaper nor Eliza- 
beth and Essex a difficult book, save as we compare each with 
other materials of its class. Unquestionably, the classification 
of House and Garden as difficult is more reliable than a similar 
classification of the Los Angeles Times and Elizabeth and Essex, 
for the reason that general magazines received a far more com- 
prehensive sampling than newspapers and books. 

The facts presented in this chapter, then, do not define diffi- 
culty of reading materials precisely. They show, rather, how 
differences in the occurrence of certain elements in several ma- 
terials of a class warrant the conclusion that one book is easier 
or more difficult than others with which it is compared. Further- 
more, they show that differences which persist among different 
reading materials with respect to significant elements are so ap- 
parent as to suggest the need of a more precise technique of 
defining the degree of ease or difficulty of specific books, maga- 
zines, and newspapers. Such a technique involving a more ex- 
tensive sampling and the use of a larger number of elements 
has been presented on pages 134-138 of the previous chapter. 
The task of applying that technique to particular reading ma- 
terials is described in the next chapter. 



CHAPTER VI 

WHAT IS THE DIFFICULTY OF ADULT 
READING MATERIALS? 

PRECISELY how difficult are adult reading materials of 
a general nature, when difficulty is expressed in terms of a 
numerical index? If they differ widely (and we have 
shown that they do) with respect to certain inherent elements 
which mark them as relatively easy or difficult, what are the 
limits of difficulty represented by them ? At what point along 
the scale of difficulty can we say that a book is "very easy" and 
not just "easy/' or 'Very difficult" rather than "difficult?" And 
at what point is a book to be considered of "average" difficulty? 
Having defined areas of difficulty numerically, how are we to 
interpret them? That is to say, if the index of difficulty of New 
Russia's Primer^ for example, shows that it is "easy," what does 
this mean? Is an easy book about equal in difficulty to a book 
for second grade, for fourth grade, or for eighth grade? 

The foregoing questions arise as one surveys adult reading 
materials and compares the occurrence of elements of difficulty 
contained therein, as we have done in chapter v. The impor- 
tance of these questions cannot be overemphasized. If we are 
to utilize most profitably the materials now available, it is evi- 
dent that the difficulty of each must be defined precisely. This 
cannot be accomplished merely by showing, as we have done in 
chapter v, that a certain book contains as many elements of 
difficulty as this one or that one, but by determining its index 
of difficulty and thereby defining the area of difficulty to which 
it belongs. 

In order to answer these questions, two sets of facts are need- 
ed. First, facts should be discovered that can be used in defining 
both the scale of difficulty represented by a wide sampling of 
adult materials and the various areas of difficulty into which the 

194 



DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READING MATERIALS 195 

entire scale can be divided. Second, facts are needed that can 
be used in interpreting each area of difficulty in practical terms. 
Obtaining these different kinds of information involves the se- 
lection of a wide sampling of reading material, the calculation 
of an index of difficulty for each of the materials selected, and 
the distribution of the indexes in a manner that will make them 
meaningful and useful. The present chapter shows how these 
procedures have been carried out and the facts thus obtained 
used in answering the questions presented at its beginning. 

LIMITATION OF ADULT MATERIALS TO GENERAL BOOKS 

In this part of the study which defines areas of difficulty for 
adult reading materials, we have centered our attention on 
books to the exclusion of magazines and newspapers. The rea- 
sons for doing so are given in chapter v. An examination of 
Tables XXXVII-XL shows that the range of occurrence of the 
four elements studied is wider for adult books than for adult 
magazines and newspapers. Presumably, a similar variation in 
range persists with respect to other significant elements. If, 
then, we define areas of difficulty for a wide sampling of adult 
books, we may expect to include a range as wide as that repre- 
sented by adult materials in general, that is, by books, maga- 
zines, and newspapers. 

ADULT BOOKS STUDIED 

In selecting books for study, we have endeavored to obtain 
a sampling that represents a range of difficulty for adults of 
limited reading ability from very easy to very difficult. Such a 
range extends from an area of difficulty exemplified by the sim- 
plified Ro&inson Crusoe> through an area characterized by the 
novels of Zane Grey, Harold Bell Wright, and other writers of 
popular fiction, to an area represented by BoswelFs Life of 
Johnson. The books studied were suggested by the following 
sources: 

I. The largest number were taken from a compilation pre- 
pared to meet the demand for a list of simply written, informa- 



196 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

tive, readable books suitable for use in connection with current 
educational activities among adults. 1 The list includes books 
of fiction, biography, history, and travel; books about cooking, 
gardening, dress making, and other practical arts; and books 
on music, drawing, painting, writing, the theater, and other 
subjects bearing on the cultural aspects of living. 

a. A considerable number were suggested by forty readers' 
advisers in public libraries in various parts of the country. They 
kept a month's record of the reading carried on by adult patrons 
who came for guidance and evaluated the readability of the 
books they read by the technique described in chapter ii. 

3. Data compiled by Waples and Tyler furnished the names 
of cheap, simply written novels which represent the undirected 
reading choices of adults of low reading abilities and relatively 
untutored tastes. 

4. The findings obtained by Chancellor from an inquiry con- 
cerning available reading materials for native-born illiterates 
and near-illiterates indicate the books of greatest usefulness for 
adult beginners in reading. These books were also included in 
the list studied. 

Many books were found to be common to two or more lists. 
Others appear on but one list. Several had been analyzed and 
ranked for relative difficulty after the manner described in chap- 
ter v. No book was omitted from the study, however, if it could 
be located in public or private libraries. In all, 350 suggested 
books were available. Their indexes of difficulty were predicted 
and used in defining areas of difficulty for adult reading matter in 
general. The names of these books, together with author, pub- 
lisher, and date of publication, are listed in Table LXXXV in 
Appendix R 

PREDICTING DIFFICULTY IN TERMS OF AN 
AVERAGE READING SCORE 

The method used to determine difficulty in terms of a numeri- 
cal index, or an average reading score, has been described on 

1 Doris Hoit, Books of General Interest for Today's Readers. Washington, D.C., Amer- 
ican Library Association and the American Association for Adult Education, 1934. 
Pp. 60. 



DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READING MATERIALS 197 

pages 134-135 of chapter iv. This method enables us to com- 
bine several elements of difficulty into a single value, jf x> in 
such a way as to give the best possible estimate of X*. Here X* is 
the average reading score that adults of limited reading ability 
might be expected to make were they tested for comprehension 
of a given book. In other words, it is the index of difficulty 
which we are trying to determine. 

In chapter iv we have shown how eight significant elements 
may be combined into a variety of smaller groupings for the 
purpose of predicting difficulty. Any one of the combinations 
presented gives a fairly reliable prediction of difficulty. For pur- 
poses of this part of the study, we have combined five elements 
number of different hard words, number of personal pro- 
nouns, average sentence-length in words, percentage of differ- 
ent words, and number of prepositional phrases into a single 
instrument of prediction, as shown on page 138, The final index 
is a true measure of difficulty only to the extent that the five 
elements represent total difficulty. 

The procedure followed in using these elements for predicting 
the index of difficulty for a particular book is, first, to select a 
passage of one hundred words from approximately each chap- 
ter; second, to analyze the passage for the occurrence of the five 
elements of difficulty; third, to calculate the average occurrence 
of each element for the book as a whole; fourth, to substitute 
the obtained values in respective order in the following equa- 
tion: 

Xi = . 01029^4- . 00901 2^T 5 . 02094^6 . 03313-^7 
-.01485^8+3-774; 

and, finally, to solve the equation for X^ the average score in 
comprehension that a group of adults of limited ability prob- 
ably would make if tested on the content of the book. Each 
step in the procedure requires painstaking care in order that the 
score thus obtained will be as accurate and reliable as possible. 
A summary of data obtained by analyzing various samples of 
a book for the occurrence of specific elements is necessary before 
the average occurrence of each element can be determined for 
the book as a whole. It seems desirable to keep a record of this 



198 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



summary, together with other data used in calculating an index 
of difficulty for a particular book. Such a record may be used 

TABLE LV 

FORM USED IN RECORDING THE OCCURRENCE OF ELEMENTS or DIFFICULTY AND 
THE CALCULATION OF THE AVERAGE READING SCORE 

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR LOOKS 



Author 5^*!?L?.5*i ..................... Publisher 

Total Number of Pages. ...3.y. ................ Net Number of Pages. ...373.?.?. 

Figured by, ......... W._D. ............................. Checked by ......... ?:A.!r.: 



Chapter 


I 


II 


IV 


V 


VI 


VIII 


X 


XII 


XIV 


XVI 


XIX 




Page 


7 


33 


62 


92 


121 


153 


1 86- 
187 


211 


242 


271 


305 






Occurrence of Elements 


Aver- 
age for 
Book 


Number of different 
hard words (JQ . 


I? 


22 


22 


18 


26 


20 


19 


20 


21 


21 


26 


21.09 


Number of first-, 
second-, third- 
person pronouns 
(X s ) 


9 


13 


6 


9 


I 


6 


17 


II 


10 


8 


20 


10.00 




Average sentence- 
length in words 
(Xd 


20 


I 4 .2 


20 


33-3 


12.5 


20 


ii. i 


*5 


*s 


*5 


I6. 7 


20.26 




Percentage of dif- 
ferent words (X>j) 


6 4 


6j 


66 


68 


6 9 


6 9 


63 


72 


61 


69 


64 


66.55 


Number of preposi- 
sitional phrases 
(X$ 


3 


5 


5 


9 


5 


16 


6 


12 


13 


10 


12 


8.727 





later as a source of reference concerning the difficulty of a given 
book, and as a means of verifying an obtained score. 
Table LV is a copy of the record-card used in the present 



DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READING MATERIALS 199 

TABLE LV Continued 
Formula Zi= .01029 X 3 + .009012 X s .02094 X 6 .03313 X 7 ~ .01485 ^8+3.774 

(i) Number of personal pronouns X .009012= .090120 

+ 3-774 



Sum 3.864120 

(2) Number of different hard words X .01029= .217016 

Difference = 3.647104 

(3) Average sentence- length in words X .02094= .4^4244 

Difference = 3.222860 

(4) Percentage of different words X .03313 = 2.204802 

Difference = 1.018058 

(5) Number of prepositional phrases X .01485= .129596 

Final difference = Average reading score .89 

study. It shows the occurrence of elements of difficulty in 
State's Making the Most of Your Looks, 3 and the calculation of 
the predicted score, .89. Each vertical column shows the occur- 
rence of the five elements in a single sampling of one hundred 
words. The general location of the sample by chapter and page 
is indicated at the top of the column. Each horizontal row shows 
the occurrence of a single element in the complete series of sam- 
plings. At the end of each row is recorded the average occur- 
rence of the element for the entire book. Space is provided on 
the card for fifteen samplings, the maximum number usually 
needed. 

The steps followed in calculating the index of difficulty are 
indicated below the tabulated elements. For the sake of ease of 
computation, elements with positive coefficients are considered 
first. The product of +.009012^, representing the weighted 
value of personal pronouns, is added to the statistical constant, 
3.774. From the positive sum thus obtained are subtracted suc- 
ceeding products representing, respectively, the weighted value 
of different hard words, sentence-length, different words, and 
prepositional phrases. The final difference designates the aver- 
age reading score or predicted index of difficulty. If these cal- 

* Dorothy Stote, Making the, Most of Your Looks. New York, Brentano's, 1926. 
Pp- 313. 



200 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

dilations are made through the use of a calculating machine, 
the process can be carried forward continuously, each answer 
being kept in the machine until the final difference is obtained. 
It is usually desirable, however, to record the successive an- 
swers, as in Table LV, for the purpose of checking on the accu- 
racy of the predicted score. 

RANGE OF DIFFICULTY REPRESENTED BY 350 BOOKS 

The distribution of reading scores predicted for the 350 
books studied is presented in Table LVL Each interval begins 
with the first number and extends up to, but not including, the 
second number. For example, interval .10-. 15 includes all books 
with a predicted score of .10 or more up to .15. Actually, the 
end-point of this interval is .145, any score exceeding .145 being 
interpreted as .15 and, accordingly, included in the next inter- 
val .15-. 20. 

The range of difficulty extends from 2.06, the score for the 
adapted Robinson Crusoe, to .26, for the original Robinson 
Crusoe. The former book is, therefore, the easiest book studied 
and the latter the hardest, when difficulty is measured in terms 
of structural elements. Since the highest score made by "poor- 
est" readers, whose performance on the adult tests was de- 
scribed in. chapter iv, was 2.1, it is evident that the adapted 
version of Robinson Crusoe will probably be read with a fair de- 
gree of comprehension by all adults of limited reading ability. 
On the other hand, it is unlikely that any reader of the same 
ability will obtain a similar understanding of the original ver- 
sion. 

The mean score for all books is -676. This score is representa- 
tive of the difficulty ofjalna, Twelve Tests of Character, Richard 
Carvel, and Rockne of Notre Dame. The standard deviation, .257, 
indicates that approximately the middle two-thirds of all books 
studied have a degree of difficulty varying from .933 (.676+ 
.257) to .419 (.676 .257), In other words, about 233 books 
range between Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage (.933) and 
Ludwig's July '14 (.420). 



DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READING MATERIALS 201 



Further examination of the distributed scores shows that the 
number of books in each class-interval increases with conspicu- 
ous regularity from interval 1.30-1.35 to interval .65-. 70, and 
decreases from the latter point with approximately the same 

TABLE LVI 

DISTRIBUTION OF AVERAGE READING SCORES PREDICTED FOR 350 BOOKS 



Predicted Scores 


Number 


Predicted Scores 


Number 


2 OC--2 IO 


i 


80- 8< 


21 


2 OO 2 OC 




. uv/~ .u^ 

7C- 80 


2T 


I Q C 2 OO 




.70- .7< 


11 


I . QO I . Q C 




,6c- .70 


AQ 


1 . 8 C-I . QO 




.60- .6c 


IO 


80-1 85 


i 


* j 
.r< .60 


28 


.7C i .80 




. CO . 


21 


7O I .7C 




.4.< . <Q 


I 4 


. 6 C I .70 




.4.O .4< 


IQ 


6o~i 65 ... . . 




. ^ C .4.O 


7 


I . C C I 60 


i 


.^O- .'K 


Q 


I . <O I C C 




,2<- .^O 


7 


I ..d.C -I CO . . . .... 




.20 .2< 


c 


X "TJ * J W 

I AQ I 4.C 




.!< .20 


6 


I . 1 C I 4.O 




.IO- .1C 


? 


I *?O I *3 C . . ... 


j 


.oc .10 


2 


T 2C I 7O 




.00 .oc 


I 


I 2O I 2C 




O< OO 




I IC~I 2O .... 





TO ,OC 




I IO I I C 




1C IO. . 




I OC I IO 


f 


20 .1C 




I OO I OC . . . . 


6 


.2C .20 




orI oo 


IO 


~.70 .2C 


I 


,y*j A .ww 


T *7 






. 90- .95 

8c~ oo 


*/ 
28 


Total 


TCO 











Mean 



6y6 .093 
.066 



consistency to interval .oo-.o5. The number of books at the 
extremes of the scale is limited to a scattered few. What these 
facts seem to indicate is that many more books of average diffi- 
culty are to be found in a sampling of adult materials than are 
easy or difficult books when the sampling is made as in this 
study. 



202 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

The distribution of books according to difficulty may be ob- 
served more directly by means of the graphic presentation of 
scores shown in Figure 23. Numbers below the base-line show 
the class-intervals into which the predicted scores have been 
distributed. High scores, representative of easy books, appear 
at what is commonly termed the "low" end of scale, and low 
scores, representative of difficult books, at the "high" end of 
the scale. Hence, difficulty progresses from left to right, from 
high to low scores. 

It is at once apparent that the diagram has the same general 
form as the normal curve. That is to say, we find relatively few 
measures at the low end of the scale, an increasing number up to 
a maximum at the mid-position, and a progressive falling-off as 
we go toward the high end of the scale. If we divide the area by 
a line drawn perpendicularly through the highest point to the 
base-line, the two parts will be markedly similar in form. Were 
the distribution perfectly symmetrical, it would show perfect 
bilateral symmetry, that is, its halves would be similar in form 
and equal in area. As will be shown later, it is significant for our 
purposes that the distribution bears such a close resemblance to 
normality. 

Examination of the diagram shows that some class-intervals 
have been omitted at the two extremes. Beyond interval 1.30- 
1.35 at one extreme and ,00 .05 at the other, the base-line has 
been shortened to include only those intervals in which fre- 
quencies occur. Consequently, three easy books and one diffi- 
cult book are drawn into the distribution more closely than their 
scores actually warrant. 

Each block on the diagram represents a book designated by a 
number which corresponds to the numerical order of the book 
in Table LXXXV, Appendix F. Hence, it is possible to compare 
the difficulty of any one book with any other or with all others, 
by identifying it on Figure 23. For the sake of illustration, let 
us assume that we wish to compare Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer 
with Booth Tarkington's Penrod and that we wish further to 
compare both books with others along the scale. Their indexes 



204 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

of difficulty, as shown in Table LXXXV, are, respectively, .86 
and .71. Their positions on the diagram are indicated by num- 
bers 321 and 311. It is evident that the difference in difficulty 
between the two books is approximately equivalent to two class- 
intervals, the former occupying the lower position on the scale. 
It is equally evident that both books are easier than the ma- 
jority of books studied, when difficulty is measured in terms of 
structural elements. 

Again, suppose we wish to determine how much variation in 
difficulty has been affected by Robert Graves in his condensa- 
tion of the original version of David Copperfield. In terms of a 
numerical index, the difficulty has been reduced from .16 to .85, 
shown on the diagram as equivalent to the difference between 
numbers 92 and 91. It is clear that Graves has made from a very 
difficult novel one notably easier than most of the adult books 
studied. 

As a final illustration, let us compare the difficulty of three 
books by a single author Cimarron, Fanny Herself, and Show 
Boat, by Edna Ferber. They are designated, respectively, in 
Figure 23 by numbers 114, 115, and 116. As can readily be ob- 
served, the difficulty of the three books is practically identical, 
when measured by structural elements. While it is true that 
Fanny Herself has a slightly lower position on the scale, its ab- 
solute index of difficulty, .82, is not significantly different from 
.78, the index for Cimarron> or .79, for Show Boat. Although 
there is some reason for concluding from these facts that the 
author has adopted a style of writing which represents a con- 
sistent level of average difficulty, further evidence is needed be- 
fore such a generalization is altogether warranted. 

DEFINING AREAS OF DIFFICULTY 

Having predicted the difficulty of 350 books and distributed 
the scores, as in Table LVI and Figure 23, we are next concerned 
with the problem of determining objectively certain areas of 
difficulty by means of which the difficulty of a particular book 
can be interpreted in everyday language. When its absolute 



DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READING MATERIALS 205 

difficulty has been predicted, we can then tell in what area of 
difficulty the book rightfully belongs in relation to adult books 
in general. 

In the previous chapter we adopted arbitrarily three areas 
"easy/' "average," and "difficult." But such areas tend to be 
very broad. They do not allow fine discriminations of difficulty. 
Of two easy books, one may be notably easier than the other. 
Similarly, two difficult books may represent quite different de- 
grees of hardness. It seems desirable, therefore, to define five 
areas of difficulty designated "very easy/' "easy/' "average," 
"difficult," and "very difficult." Our problem, then, is to classi- 
fy the 350 books studied into these five areas of difficulty in such 
a way that the range of difficulty is equal in each. 

Inasmuch as our solution of the problem involves the use of 
the normal curve, probably the simplest approach is through 
further consideration of Figure 23. The essential characteristics 
of this diagram and its similarity to the normal curve have al- 
ready been noted. Although the distribution departs somewhat 
from normal symmetry, the amount of its irregularity, or "skew- 
ness," is small. When the degree of skewness is stated numeri- 
cally, it has a value of .023, which is interpreted as a slightly 
negative skewness. 3 In other words, the scores show a slight 
tendency to mass at the high end of the scale, indicated on the 
diagram by low scores. When described in terms of various 
measures of central tendency, the amount of irregularity is 
again insignificant. The values of the mean, median, and mode, 
which are equal in a normal distribution, are, respectively, .676, 
.678, and .675. 

If we accept this distribution of scores as sufficiently normal 
to justify statistical treatment upon the assumption of nor- 
mality, how can we make use of it in defining areas of difficulty? 
Before answering this question we must further assume that 

3 The approximate measure of skewness is found by the formula: 
Hokinger, op. cft. f p. 113. 



206 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

the distribution is sufficiently true to the facts concerning the 
difficulty of adult books in general to make its use valid in de- 
fining areas that will be applicable generally. In other words, 
we must assume that a prediction of difficulty for all adult books 
now available would give a series of scores whose distribution 
would tend to bunch in the middle and taper off gradually 
toward the extreme in a manner approximately parallel with a 
normal curve. If we multiplied our 35o-book sampling many 
times, and if we extended the content of the sampling to in- 
clude books for all classes of readers, we would presumably dis- 
cover that the general shape of the distributed scores would re- 
main the same. The present difficult and very difficult books 
would be drawn closer into the distribution along with many 
more of their class, and a new type of difficult book would repre- 
sent the upper extreme of the distribution, 

While theoretically the normal curve meets the base-line at 
infinite distances to the right and left of the mean, for practical 
purposes the curve may be taken to end at points three standard 
deviations above and below the mean. In other words, the curve 
covers a range of 6<r extending from +30* to 30-. Statistical 
evidence has shown that in a total of 10,000 cases, 99.73 per cent 
fall within the limits set by +30- and ~yS Hence, by cutting 
off the curve at these two points, we disregard only .27 of I per 
cent of the distribution, an amount obviously negligible in very 
large samples. 

If the base-line of the distribution is taken to extend from 
+30- to 3<r that is, over a range of 6<7 our problem becomes 
simply a matter of defining five areas in terms of 6<r. By simple 
division, we get 1.20- as the extent along the base-line allotted 
to each area. These five intervals may be laid off along the base- 
line, as in Figure 24, and perpendiculars drawn to demarcate the 
five areas, A y B y C, Z), and E. It is clear that very easy books 
(A) cover the first i.2<r; easy books (5) the next i.2<r; that aver- 
age books (C) include .6cr to the left and .6<r to the right of the 
mean, which is designated on the diagram 0; and that difficult 

^Holzinger, op. cit. 9 pp. 113-14; aio-n. 



DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READING MATERIALS 207 

books (>) and very difficult books (E) occupy the same relative 
positions to the right of C as B and A occupy to the left. 

What do these areas mean in terms of average reading scores ? 
If we obtain the average score, or index of difficulty, for a par- 
ticular book, how can we tell in which area it belongs? It will 
be remembered that the standard deviation (<r) has been indi- 
cated in Table LVI as .257. An area of i.a<r, then, covers a 
range 1.2 times .257 or .31. Knowing the mean score of the dis- 




Fio. 24* Definition of five areas of difficulty represented by the adult books studied 

tribution, .676, we can define the range of scores in each area on 
both sides of the mean. Area C, extending .6<r above and below 
the mean, includes a range of scores indicated by ,676 + .60-, or 
from .53 to .84. Area B includes scores from .84 to 1.15; and 
Area A, from 1.15 to 1.46 and beyond. In the opposite direction 
from the mean, Area D includes scores from .22 to .53; and Area 
E, from .09, or below, to .22. 

With these areas defined, we can now say that Roosevelt's 
Looking Forward is a book of average difficulty, for the reason 
that its predicted index of difficulty, ,70, falls in Area C* School 
and Home, by Angelo Patri, score i.i I, is an easy book; and the 
adapted Silas Mamer, score 1.24, very easy. On the other hand, 
Robinson's The Mind in the Making score .43, belongs to the 



208 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

area of difficult books; and Adam's The Epic of America, score 
.15, to the area of very difficult books. 

It must be remembered that the assignment of these books to 
their respective categories is based solely on a consideration of 
one measure of difficulty, the occurrence of structural elements 
bearing significant relationship to difficulty for adults of limited 
ability. Unquestionably, other qualities such as informality of 
style, directness of presentation, and interestingness of content 
may impose a limitation on how far structural elements alone 
can truly determine the difficulty of a particular book. To what 
extent a more valid means of classifying books for difficulty can 
be effected by a consideration of additional qualities is a prob- 
lem which requires further experimentation. In the sections 
which follow, it is most essential that these limitations be kept 
in mind. 

IS THE DIFFERENCE IN DIFFICULTY REPRESENTED BY 
ADJACENT AREAS SIGNIFICANT? 

If we look at this question from a statistical point of view, 
the answer is "yes." The significance of the difference between 
the average scores of any two books was determined from the 
probable error of the difference of the scores, which was found 
to be .079. Since a significant difference is usually considered 
at least three times its probable error, a difference of .24 be- 
tween scores on any two books may be considered statistically 
significant. It is evident, therefore, that the end-score of Area 
C, .53, for example, is significantly different from the opposite 
end-score, .84, and hence from Area B. On the other hand, the 
difficulty of the section of Area C bordering .84 is imperceptibly 
different from the section of Area B bordering the same score. 
In more concrete terms, The Silver Horde,, by Rex Beach, score 
.82, is significantly easier than A Daughter of the Seine by Eaton, 
score .55, at the opposite extreme of Area C. The difficulty of 
the former is approximately the same, however, as Carroll's 
As the Earth Turns, whose score of .86 ranks it in Area B; where- 
as the difficulty of the latter approximates Sandburg's Mary 



DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READING MATERIALS 209 

Lincoln, whose score of .52 ranks it in Area D. In view of these 
facts, we may say that an area of 1.20-, covering a score-range of 
.31, represents a degree of difficulty significantly different in 
general from any other area. Neither of its extremes, however, 
is significantly different from the extreme of the area adjacent 
to it. 

From a practical point of view, the question of significant dif- 
ferences in difficulty can be answered with considerably less 
certainty. For the beginning adult reader, it seems safe to say 
that a difference in scores of less than the statistical minimum 
.24 may be significant. He may be able to read Country Life 
Reader , Book II, score 1.33, with fair understanding, yet ex- 
perience genuine difficulty with Fundamentals of Dress Con- 
struction, score 1.19. His limited reading experience puts him 
in the class of "poor" readers, for whom structural elements, as 
shown in chapter iv, are notably more closely related to diffi- 
culty than for "good" readers. For the latter type, that is, for 
the person with mature reading habits, the ranking of a book as 
"easy," "average," or "difficult" is relatively unimportant. 
From the point of view of structure, probably no general book 
is so difficult that he cannot read it, should he choose to do so. 
Whether he will choose to read a very difficult, an average, or 
an easy book is another matter. 

WHAT BOOKS CHARACTERIZE AREAS A, B, C, D, AND E? 

In characterizing areas of structural difficulty in terms of 
specific books, we have attempted to select from among the 350 
books studied those which are familiar to a large number of 
readers of this report. With each book cited in this section are 
given its index of difficulty, or predicted score, listed in Table 
LXXXV, Appendix F, and its numerical order in that table by 
which it may be identified in Figure 23. 

Of the 350 books studied, 10 belong to Area A. In other 
words, their index of difficulty is higher than 1.15, giving them 
lowest rank along the scale of difficulty. Two types of books 
were found to fall in this area of very easy reading* One type 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

includes simplified materials prepared especially for beginning 
adult readers and near-illiterates. The other includes simple 
books on practical subjects written to reach a large reading 
audience. Among the former are the Country Life Readers,, 
Books I and II, numbered, respectively, 301 and 302; Home and 
Health in a New Land (No. 129); and adaptations of Silas Mar- 
ner (No. 194) and Robinson Crusoe (No. 334). The scores of 
these books range between 1.24 and 2.06, indicating that adults 
of limited ability can probably read them with a fair degree of 
understanding. Very easy books on practical subjects include 
Brigham's Box Furniture (No. 47), score 1.24; Manning and 
Donaldson's Fundamentals -of Dress Construction (No. 214), 
score 1.19; and Maternity Handbook (No. 223), score 1.16. 

Area B extends from Farm Blacksmithing, by Friese (No. 
126), to the condensed edition of David Copperfield (No. 91). 
The predicted score of the former is 1.13; of the latter, .85. 
Despite the fact that both belong to the area of easy books, the 
one is about as closely related to the hardest of very easy books 
as the other is to the easiest of average books. Among the 70 
easy books are found School and Home y by Angelo Patri (No. 
252)3 score i.ii; Ilin's What Time Is It? (No. 171), score 1,04; 
and New Russia's Primer (No. 170), score .97. More books on 
practical subjects making of draperies, growing house plants, 
caring for the home, designing furniture, repairing shoes are 
among the books which adults of limited ability presumably find 
easy. A few popular novels rank in this area. Conspicuous 
among them are Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage (No. 
139) ; A Lantern in Her Hand, by Bess Streeter Aldrich (No. 9) ; 
and The Bonney Family, by Ruth Suckow (No. 858). The score 
of the first is .92; of the other two, .86. This latter score is repre- 
sentative also of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 
(No. 321), and Mary Antin's The Promised Land (No. 16). 

In Area C, extending from score .53 to score .84, popular 
novels and popularly written general non-fiction predominate. 
Here we find a variety of good stories, both old and new: 
Dumas, The Three Musketeers (No. 98); Tracy, Wings of the 



DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READING MATERIALS 211 

Morning (No. 316); De La Roche, Jalna (No. 269); London, 
The Call of the Wild (No. 203); Ferber, Cimarron (No. 114), 
Fanny Herself (No. 115), and Show Boat (No. 116); Lewis, 
Babbitt (No. 196); Bromfield, The Green Bay Tree (No. 48); 
Deeping, Sorrell and Son (No. 87); Buck, The Good Earth (No. 
51); O. Henry, Four Million (No. 151); Hey ward, Mambas 
Daughters (No. 157); Wharton, Ethan Frome (No. 336); 
Hough, The Covered Wagon (No. 165), and many other stories. 
They represent adventure, mystery, family life, and characteriza- 
tion. They are stories of the North, East, South, West, and 
Middle West. In one respect these stories are all similar. They 
are told in a manner which from the point of view of structural 
elements marks them of average difficulty among adult books 
in general. 

In this "average" area, too, we find a generous amount of 
biography: Lindbergh, We (No. 199); White, Daniel Boone 
(No. 337); Finger, David Livingstone (No. 112); Partridge, 
Amundsen, the Splendid Norseman (No. 2,51); Repplier, PSre 
Marquette (No. 262); Sandburg, Abe Lincoln Grows Up (No. 
281); Lovelace, Rockne of Notre Dame (No. 205); Cantor, My 
Life Is in Your Hands (No. 59); Barrymore, Confessions of an 
Actor (No. 27); Winkler, John D: A Portrait in Oil (No. 342); 
and Earhart, The Fun of It (No. 99), These few titles by no 
means exhaust the list of interesting life-stories of interesting 
people, told by themselves or by others in such a way that read- 
ers of limited ability may be expected to find them of average 
difficulty. 

Books on sports generally rank in Area C. That is, their pre- 
dicted index of difficulty falls between .53 and .84. Among such 
books we find: Barnes, Swimming and Diving (No. 24) ; Moore, 
The Mental Side of Golf (No. 237) ; Hulit, The Salt-Water Angler 
(No. 169); Hammett, Major Sport Fundamentals (No. 143); and 
Lacoste on Tennis (No. 189). 

A more restricted number of books of history rank in Area C. 
History in general is represented by Parson, The Stream of His- 
tory (No. 250); Hartman, These United States (No. 146); Herd- 



2i2 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

man, History of the United States (No. 153); and Singmaster, 
The Book oj the United States (290). Accounts of the World War 
include Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (No. 261) ; and 
Masefield, Gallipoli (No. 220). Books of history, in general, do 
not fall among "average" books. They tend, rather, to belong 
to Area D, which represents what we have termed "difficult" 
reading materials. 

In Area D, extending from score .22 to score .53, are included 
69 books which from the point of view of structure are probably 
too difficult for adults of limited ability to comprehend satis- 
factorily. This does not mean that so-called "difficult" books 
cannot be read understandingly by some relatively inexperi- 
enced readers. Undoubtedly they can and for the reason that 
other factors may offset structural difficulty. For example, a 
book of compelling interest with an index of difficulty of .35 may 
be more intelligible than another with an index of .68. In gen- 
eral, however, Area D is characterized by books of a level of 
difficulty too advanced for readers of limited ability. 

Few novels among the 350 books studied rank in Area D. 
These few are representative of the more substantial type of 
fiction novels of the Victorian Era, ponderous novels equal to 
two or three of ordinary length, and European novels in trans- 
lation. Among them we find: Austen, Pride and Prejudice (No. 
19); Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield (No. 135); Turgenev, 
Fathers and Sons (No. 320) ; Rolland, Jean-Christophe (No. 272) ; 
Balzac, Pere Goriot (No. 22) ; and Daudet, Tartarin of Tarascon 
and Tartarin on the Alps (No. 86). 

Like fiction, biography is represented relatively little in Area 
D. Illustrative of difficult biography are: McMahon, Wright 
Brothers (No. 228); Anderson, These Quarrelsome Bonaparte s 
(No. u); and Arliss, Up the Years from Bloomsbury (No. 17). 

What sort of books, then, best characterize Area D? Two 
kinds rank most frequently as difficult reading. They are books 
of travel and books of history. The former include: Mason, 
Columbus Came Late (No. 222) ; Leys, After You, Magellan! (No. 
197); Van Loon's Geography (No. 326); Duguid, Green Hell (No. 



DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READING MATERIALS 213 

97) ; Woolley, Ur of the Chaldees (No. 346) ; Morton, In Search of 
Scotland (No. 239); and Banks, The Story of Mexico (No. 23). 
Difficult books of history are represented by Davis, Life in 
Elizabethan Days (No. 85); Ludwig, July '14 (No. 209); Gibbs, 
Since Then (No. 132); Lang, The Conquest of Montezumas Em- 
pire (No. 191); and Maurois, Disraeli (No. 224). That travel 
and history should present difficult reading for the limited read- 
er is not wholly unexpected. Much of the difficulty can un- 
doubtedly be ascribed to the frequent occurrence of proper 
words which tend to weight the vocabulary with hard words. 

Thirteen of the 350 books studied have an index of difficulty 
below .22. They are the very difficult books which represent 
Area E. Among them we find: Allen, Only Yesterday (No, 10); 
Mowrer, Germany Puts the Clock Back (No. 240) ; Adams, The 
Epic of America (No. 3) ; Rogers and Allen, The American Pro- 
cession (No. 271); Sullivan, Our Times, 1900-1914 (No. 308); 
and Bowers, The Tragic Era (No. 42). Curiously enough, these 
"very difficult" books deal with subjects of wide appeal. They 
present some vital problem of present-day living or some aspect 
of an earlier period that has made appreciable contribution to 
our times. They are written in a vivid, narrative style that is 
easy and agreeable for the able reader. Yet from the point of 
view of structure they present difficulties which put them be- 
yond the understanding of readers of lesser ability. How much 
this handicap can be overcome by the reader's attitude, the 
purposiveness of his reading, the attractiveness of the theme, 
and other potent factors of the reading situation, is a question 
that cannot be answered. Undoubtedly, such factors tend to 
decrease appreciably the influence of structural elements on 
difficulty. 

WHAT DO AREAS OF DIFFICULTY MEAN IN TERMS OF 
GRADE LEVELS OF READING ABILITY? 

More specifically, does Area C represent a degree of difficulty 
appropriate for grades 4 and 5 as for grades 7 and 8 ? Can adults 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

whose reading ability is defined at the sixth-grade level read 
understandingly difficult books ranked at Area D ? 

In order to answer these questions precisely we need to find 
out how well adults of different degrees of reading ability can 
comprehend materials at Areas A, B, C, D, or E. If by testing 
their understanding of a variety of materials, we should find 
that the majority of adults of a given grade comprehend "aver- 
age" (Area C), but not "difficult" books (Area D), then we 
might say that materials at Area C are best suited to their level 
of ability. 

A comprehensive testing program, however, meets a number 
of practical obstacles. In the first place, although a large per- 
centage of adults engage in some reading of a general sort, a 
relatively small percentage attend organized classes of instruc- 
tion. Then, too, the few adults who attend day or evening 
schools are seldom classified formally at a specific grade-level. 
To interpret areas of difficulty in terms of adult grades of edu- 
cational progress is, therefore, not only an intricate task but one 
that is more or less impractical. On the other hand, if we inter- 
pret their meaning in terms of elementary grade-levels for which 
they are structurally appropriate, we shall have an estimate of 
difficulty that is generally intelligible and presumably practical. 

Considerable effort has been centered on determining the ap- 
propriate grade-placement of reading material for children. 
This is largely for the reason that fundamental reading habits 
show progressive growth throughout the elementary grades 
until they reach a stage of maturity normally attained by the 
end of the elementary school. In harmony with these facts, 
ability in reading has been accepted as a fairly valid index of a 
child's ability to meet the requirements of a particular grade. 

The careful grading of children's reading materials has con- 
sequently been essential in order to provide for pupil adjustment 
at each grade-level and for pupil advancement from one grade- 
level to the next. Materials have been graded on the basis of 
such factors as familiarity of vocabulary, length and complexity 
of thought-statements, number and quality of ideas, and ap- 



DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READING MATERIALS 215 

propriateness of content to the major interests at any given 
level. As a result, we now find many textbooks for each grade 
prepared with such care that they suit the reading needs and 
abilities of the majority of pupils classified in that grade. 

In attempting to establish a meaning of difficulty for adult 
materials in Areas A, B, C, D, and E we have compared the 
indexes of difficulty represented by each area with the indexes of 
difficulty of a wide sampling of children's textbooks in reading. 
It is not our purpose to conclude from such comparisons that 
the difficulty of adult books in any given area is equivalent to 
that of children's books at a given grade-level, save with respect 
to structural elements. 

Eighty-one textbooks in reading were chosen for study. In- 
cluded in this number are eleven series of readers for grades 2 to 
6, inclusive, and twenty-six widely used texts in reading and 
literature for grades 7 and 8 of the elementary school or for 
grades 7, 8, and 9 of the junior high school. The books are 
listed in Table LXXXVI, Appendix G, together with the name 
of author and publisher, and date of publication of each. 

The distribution of average reading scores predicted for the 
eighty-one textbooks for grades 2 to 9 is shown in Table LVIL 
The range of difficulty extends from 1.60, the score predicted for 
The Open Door, a reading text for second grade, to .16, the score 
for Literature and Life, Book II, a text for eighth grade. The 
table shows interesting differences between the difficulty of 
books at successive grade-levels up to the period of the junior 
high school. These differences are more strikingly presented in 
Figure 25. On this diagram are shown the range of difficulty 
among the books for each grade, the average difficulty, and the 
range of difficulty represented by the middle two-thirds of books 
studied for each grade. 

Up to the eighth grade, books for each grade show an average 
difficulty that is notably higher than for the one immediately 
preceding. The average difficulty of books for eighth grade is 
but slightly higher than for seventh grade, and but slightly 
lower than for ninth grade. Although there is a degree of over- 



2l6 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



lapping in the range of difficulty of books for succeeding grades, 
it is not until the junior high school that the range of difficulty 
for one grade closely parallels the range for the next. 

TABLE LVII 

DISTRIBUTION OF AVERAGE READING SCORES PREDICTED FOR 
EIGHTY-ONE TEXTBOOKS IN READING 



Predicted 
Scores 


All 
Book 


Sec- 
ond 
Grad 


Third 
Grade 


Fourth 
Grad 


Fifth 
Grad 


Sixth 
Grade 


Sev- 
enth 
Grade 


Eighth 
Grade 


Ninth 
Grade 


i 60 i 6c 


i 


i 
















T t f T 60 




















1 -5-> A >ou 

I CO I CC 




















* jr^*- 'jj 


i 


i 
















1 .4^) A .^)U 
I A.Q- 1 AC 




















T 7 C I A.Q 


2 


2 
















I QO-I TC 




2 


2 














1 jr* -Ji 

I 1 C I ^O 




















1 "*J a *J W 
I 2O~I 2 C 


2 




2 














I 151 20 


7 




4 


-3 












I IO I 1C 


c 


I 


2 


I 


i 










i 051 10 . . ... 




















I.OO-I .O^ 


-3 




I 




2 










Q C I OO 









7 


2 










QO~ QC 


6 






2 





i 








yv^ -yj 

.8c- QO 


2 






I 




i 








80- . 8 < 


r 






I 




2 


I 


i 




7C- 80 


7 








I 


2 


2 


I 




7O- .7C 


7 








I 


7 




2 




/^ /:> 
.6<- .70 


r 










I 


2 


2 




,J / 
. 60- . 6 < 


7 








I 


I 




I 




v ;.J 

.c<- .60 















2 






. 0- , C C 


a 












I 






.4.C- . CO 


a 














1 




,4.0 .4.C 


'j 












2 


I 




,TC- .40 


i 
















j 


.30- ,35 




















.2C- .70 




















.20- .2-5 




















.1C- .20 


i 














1 
























Mean 




T .^ 


i 18 


I OO 


QOQ 


772, 


616 


6oA 


/7*7 


Probable error. ... 




.016 


4- OOQ 


01*1 


.yvjy 
.OIC 


' // t 

i ooo 


OI C 


<W4 

db 021 


577 

OI C 








0_ ,wwy 


.WAJ 


.wij 










Standard deviation 
Probable error. . . . 





.147 
db .011 


.087 
006 


.122 

4- OQ2 


133 

i on 


.085 

OOO 


135 

i oil 


.192 

01 1 


.133 

i 01 1 










j_ .wy* 













DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READING MATERIALS 217 

The inference to be drawn from these facts is that whereas 
structural elements tend to indicate important differences in 
difficulty of reading materials throughout the elementary school^ 
some other factors are essential in measuring difficulty at the 
junior high-school level and presumably beyond. Such an 
inference does not mean to imply that other factors are of no 



Score 



.00 


- 


















10 


- 


















20 


- 






















3 


- 






















. 4 


_ 




















r-i 


50 
.6o 


- ' 














i 




I 


i 


.70 
,80 


- 










I 




^ 


X 


1 




s 


I 


.90 









^ 


J ^- - 


^ 













1.00 


- 


, 






^^ 


1 












MO 


- 






1 


// 



















1.20 


- 






1 

























1; 
















t-30 


- -i<r 


^ 




^. 
















1.40 


. 


^ 






















M 


^5 




















I.SO 




1 




















1.60 


_ -Her 


^ 






















II III 


IV V VI 


VII VHI IX Grade 



FIG. 25. Predicted difficulty of reading texts for elementary and junior high schools 
in terms of range, mean, and standard deviation. 

consequence in determining difficulty in the elementary grades, 
but that sufficient difference exists with respect to the occur- 
rence of structural elements to make their use possible in esti- 
mating difficulty. Whether these other factors are related to 
number and quality of ideas, to the degree of directness by 
which the ideas are presented or to some other aspect of style, 
or whether they are related to the breadth and depth of the 
reader's experiences are questions which require further study. 



ai8 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



How can the facts presented in Table LVII and Figure 25 be 
used in interpreting the difficulty of adult reading materials 
characterizing Areas A, B, C, D, and E? Figure 26 suggests the 
answer to this question. In the diagram is shown the distribu- 
tion of scores of adult books as in Figure 23. Areas of difficulty 
are indicated along the base-line by the sigma values defining 
each. Superimposed on the distribution are rectangular blocks 



Middle two-thirds of 

grade textbooks 
Below middle two-thirds 
Above middle ewo.th.irds 



Grade 




-.00 



Area A 



AreaB 



ArcaC 



Area D 



Area E 



Fro. 26. Interpretation of areas of difficulty in terms of difficulty represented by 
textbooks for grades H to IX. 

illustrating the same facts that appear in Figure 25. The length 
of each block represents the range of scores predicted for all 
books for a given grade. The shaded portion indicates the range 
of difficulty of the middle two-thirds of the books studied. The 
curve through the blocks shows the trend of average difficulty of 
books for grades 2 to 9, inclusive. 

When areas representing the difficulty of adult books are 
compared with areas of difficulty for children's textbooks in 
reading, the following conclusions seem warranted: 

i. Least difficult adult books, that is, "very easy" books in 
Area A, are about as difficult from the point of view of struc- 
tural elements as reading textbooks for second grade and most 
reading textbooks for third grade. If the 350 books studied may 
be taken as representative of adult books in general, it is evident 



DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READING MATERIALS 219 

that relatively few fall at this level. These few are simplifica- 
tions of standard novels and other purposeful attempts to ex- 
press adult subject matter in very simple language. 

2. The difficulty of "easy" adult books in Area B is best de- 
scribed in terms of reading textbooks for fourth grade. Approxi- 
mately all the texts for this grade have indexes of difficulty be- 
tween .84 and 1.15. A large number of texts for fifth grade and 
a considerably smaller number of third-grade texts also rank in 
Area B. 

3. Area C, containing "average" adult books, represents a de- 
gree of difficulty equivalent to that of most reading texts for 
sixth grade and of many readers and literary texts for junior 
high school. Although the mean difficulty of books for eighth 
and ninth grades falls within this area, a considerable portion of 
the total range of difficulty represented by these books falls be- 
yond Area C into Area D. Inasmuch as a large number of books 
on a variety of subjects may be characterized "average," it is 
evident that much adult reading material is no more difficult, 
structurally, than the average reading text for sixth grade and 
junior high school. 

4. "Difficult" books in Area D are less easily described in 
terms of grade levels. If we say that they are equivalent, from 
the point of view of structural difficulty, to many reading texts 
for junior high school, we fail to tell the whole story. They are 
that and more. If we assume that they are equivalent in diffi- 
culty to texts for senior high school, we shall find that evidence 
in support of the assumption is not easily obtained. Textbooks 
in reading are not usually provided for this level, and other 
books tend to deviate from the general into some speciali2ed 
field. Were such facts obtainable, we should still be forced to 
question whether they present a true picture of difficulty at this 
level, where structural elements are of less significance, 

5. The meaning of "very difficult" books cannot be interpret- 
ed with precision from data in Figure 26. That Area E is out- 
side the range of difficulty represented by the textbooks studied 
is obvious. Structurally, then, it represents a degree of difficulty 



220 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

beyond that of reading texts for elementary and junior high 
schools. Perhaps, however, at this area, structural difficulty is 
relatively less important than other qualities in determining 
whether a reader who is able to read a book classified in Area D 
will meet any more serious difficulty in Area E. It seems alto- 
gether probable that the structural obstacles in one will be no 
more significant than in the other, inasmuch as data already 
presented show that structural elements are less closely related 
to difficulty for "good" readers than for "poor" readers. On the 
other hand, at this area, as elsewhere, structural elements are 
of considerable significance for readers of limited ability, al- 
though vital interest in the content of a very difficult book and a 
genuine motive for reading may reduce its difficulty as defined 
by structural elements alone. 

WHAT PERCENTAGE OF ADULT READERS CAN READ BOOKS 
AT AREA A, B, C, D, OR E? 

Since the general notion of differences in difficulty of reading 
materials implies differences in reading ability, it appears that 
the findings of the present chapter may gain in meaning if 
viewed in the light of the findings of chapter iii. It will be re- 
called that about one-sixth of the adults tested were found to 
read with a proficiency normally attained by high-school gradu- 
ates. These are the readers, then, who can presumably read 
any general book with an index of difficulty falling at any point 
along the scale from Area A to Area E. This need not imply 
that such readers have acquired mature and unmodifiable read- 
ing habits nor that their difficulty in reading is unrelated to 
structural elements. On the contrary, investigators have re- 
cently found gains in various aspects of reading ability attribut- 
able to training even at the college level. Furthermore, data in 
chapter iv give proof that structural elements may influence 
difficulty in some degree for the best readers. What seems ten- 
able to conclude, therefore, is that although one-sixth of the 
population studied is presumably able to read general material 
even of a very difficult sort, they may find technical material, 
especially in an unfamiliar field, difficult to comprehend. 



DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READING MATERIALS 221 

Evidence presented in chapter iii shows further that approxi- 
mately half the adults tested made a reading score equivalent 
to grade 7.0 or above. If the group tested may be taken as a 
fairly representative sample of the total population, then we 
may conclude that about half are able to read understandingly 
most of the material in Area C. And they have a vast amount 
of interesting material to read. It includes a variety of good 
stories and informational books on travel, biography, sports, 
and so on, the difficulty of which falls well within Area C, the 
realm of "average" books. 

In view of the fact that about one-third of the adults co-oper- 
ating in the study have a reading achievement at fifth grade or 
below, a large number of readers cannot be expected to read 
understandingly materials of greater difficulty than those in 
Area B. This conclusion should probably be qualified some- 
what, for the reason that readers of lesser ability may read a 
novel or biography from Area C with emotional satisfaction, if 
not with complete comprehension. In such case, we may ques- 
tion whether he will read books below this area with the same 
degree of pleasure. In the present study we have made no at- 
tempt to measure emotional outcomes of reading, save as they 
be measured indirectly with comprehension. 

The findings of chapter iii indicate that about one-sixth of the 
adults tested have a reading ability equivalent to the norm for 
fourth grade or below. For them, materials in Area A and Area 
B seem appropriate. But such materials are relatively few in 
number. Accordingly, a large percentage of adults whose educa- 
tional progress depends on extensive reading of simple, easy 
material must at present gather their reading experiences large- 
ly from children's books. 

What we have just attempted to show is that large differences 
in the difficulty of adult books are paralleled in a degree by dif- 
ferences in adult reading ability. For every general reader, then, 
there is some reading material now available which he can read, 
provided that we can get book and reader together. How this 
objective may be accomplished by a knowledge of the difficulty 
of a particular book is what we propose to show in the chapter 



222 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

which follows. The amount of reading material of appropriate 
difficulty is not equal for various levels of ability. For one class 
of readers there is an abundance of suitable material; whereas 
for another class simple, easy materials are meager in quantity. 
To provide adult books simple enough to fit readers of low abili- 
ty is a problem for the writer and the publisher. This problem 
we shall consider in a later chapter. 

CONCLUDING STATEMENT 

The facts presented in this chapter indicate that differences 
in the occurrence of significant structural elements may be 
utilized in comparing the difficulty of adult reading materials. 
The use of these elements in obtaining an index of difficulty for 
specific books has been illustrated to the point of showing, first, 
that the structural difficulty of adult books in general covers 
a wide range; and, second, that significantly different areas of 
difficulty may be defined between the most difficult and the 
least difficult book in the total range. 

By a definition of these areas, it becomes possible to speak 
relatively yet precisely concerning the difficulty of a given book 
relatively, because an "easy*' book is easy in relation to other 
books; and precisely, because the relative designation "easy" 
is merely a descriptive interpretation of an accurate, numerical 
index. By interpreting each area concretely, we are able further 
to describe a given book as one that is about as difficult struc- 
turally as textbooks in reading for a particular school grade. 

Although we have classified books along a scale of difficulty 
from "very easy" to "very difficult," it must be remembered 
that this classification is intended only for readers of limited 
ability, that is, for persons who, like our "poorest" readers, find 
in general materials structural obstacles to understanding. The 
classification would be quite different were it made applicable 
to adults whose reading ability equals or exceeds our "best" 
readers. For such individuals, The Epic of America, Only Yes- 
terday, The Tragic Era, and other of the "very difficult" books 
for limited readers would probably be classified "easy," if not 



DIFFICULTY OF ADULT READING MATERIALS 223 

"very easy." At higher areas would be ranked another sort of 
"difficult" book, such as Eddington, Nature of the Physical 
World; Haldane, Daedalus , or Science and the Future; Newman, 
Nature of the World and Man; and Spengler, Decline of the West 
books in which difficulty is influenced more by the quality of 
the concepts presented than by inherent elements of expression. 
In order to classify books for the highly skilled, independent 
reader, we need a new instrument of prediction based upon new 
criteria of difficulty and upon inherent elements other than 
those of structure. Whether a classification of books for these 
independent readers is practicable or necessary is a problem 
that merits investigation. For all classes of readers we need 
ultimately a more refined instrument of prediction, one that will 
recognize the interrelation of all factors of the reading situation. 
And this interrelationship can be determined only by extended 
study of the kind mentioned throughout this report. 



CHAPTER VII 

HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 
FOR ADULTS 

HOW to select readable materials for adults is the practi- 
cal consideration of this chapter. We have approached 
the problem in the light of the following questions: 
What is its importance for advisers and teachers of adults? 
What are the issues which must be considered in selecting read- 
able books ? What is the value of information concerning ele- 
ments of difficulty in selecting reading materials ? How can such 
information be put to practical use by librarians, readers' ad- 
visers, and teachers of adults ? 

Although we have attempted to discuss these questions in 
considerable detail, we have not attempted to answer them. 
That is more than the scope and accuracy of the present study 
will warrant. In succeeding sections of this chapter discussion 
of the foregoing questions aims to do two things: first, to stimu- 
late thoughtful consideration of the important problem of se- 
lecting reading materials for other persons to read; and, second, 
to illustrate how the findings of objective studies may be applied 
in practical situations. What we propose in the latter connec- 
tion is not an entirely new method as a substitute for current 
practice but, rather, a means of unifying, objectifying, and sup- 
plementing methods now in use through an application of the 
findings presented in the preceding chapters. 

IMPORTANCE OF THE PROBLEM 

Guiding adult readers in a more effective use of printed ma- 
terials is no new responsibility for the librarian. It is, however, 
a greater responsibility than it was when the amount of library 
reading was notably less than at the present time. Reports from 
sample libraries in thirty-three cities show that the amount of 

224 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 225 

reading since 1929, as measured by the number of volumes bor- 
rowed for home reading, has increased more than 50 per cent for 
seven cities reporting. 1 For Hammond, the increase is 173 per 
cent; for Akron and Dallas, 116 per cent each; for Dayton, 67 
per cent; for Washington, D.C, 64 per cent; for Memphis, 59 
per cent; and for Houston, 58 per cent. 

An examination of library records for other cities not included 
in the general survey reveals the same phenomenal growth dur- 
ing the period of the depression. Circulation figures at the 
Evanston Public Library, for example, have increased 67.44 per 
cent since I928. 2 More than 50 per cent of the residents of 
Evanston were accredited borrowers at the close of 1933, repre- 
senting an increase in number of patrons amounting to 21.6 per 
cent since 1929. Remarkable as these figures are, they fail to 
give a true picture of the growth in library patronage during the 
five-year period, for the reason that only the reading of ac- 
credited borrowers is recorded. There still remain to be con- 
sidered scores of persons everywhere who come to the public 
library to read newspapers, periodicals, and books of reference, 
but who have no cards and who never make withdrawals. 

Increased library patronage finds ready explanation in the 
present economic situation. Persons who normally spend their 
leisure in other forms of recreation are now turning to the li- 
brary in steadily increasing numbers. Some come to "browse," 
because there is nothing else for them to do. Others come with 
the purposeful intent of seeking security, comfort, and happi- 
ness in self-improvement. These last are the readers "with a 
purpose" who find in reading a new avocation; or who aim to 
gain new knowledge about trades and professions of which they 
are relatively uninformed; or who hope to find some explanation 
for current social and economic changes. They are the readers 
of non-fiction the serious readers who are pursuing definite 
courses of reading on general or specialized subjects, 

1 "Increase in Reading since 1929, Shown in Reports from Sample Libraries in 33 
Cities," Library Journal, LVIII (January 15, 1933), 77. 

a "Public Keeps Pace with New Conditions," Evanston Review, IX (February 22, 
1934). 



226 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

Despite the fact that many persons come to the library daily 
without seeking guidance from the library staff, others are regu- 
larly requesting such service. They represent an interesting va- 
riety of readers: the white-collar class students, business men 
and women, and professional people the laboring group, and 
the endless army of the unemployed. Probably the library itself 
has encouraged requests for advisory service by its growing 
tendency to provide it. Whether the one is the cause and the 
other the effect, or vice versa, is relatively unimportant. The 
significant fact is that adults are increasingly seeking guidance 
in their reading and that libraries are increasingly providing it. 
In the larger libraries where the need for guidance is particularly 
acute, skilled advisers and consultants have been added to the 
staff to promote more intimate contact between library and 
reader, to diagnose the readers' needs, and to furnish reading 
courses to fit these needs. In 1929, some twenty-five libraries 
had one or more specialists to direct adult reading. This num- 
ber since has increased to forty-four. Other libraries, the num- 
ber of which cannot be estimated, are instituting "made-work" 
programs and CWA projects designed to effect such changes in 
the routine work as will enable regular librarians to devote more 
time to advising adult patrons. 

Advisory activities themselves are undergoing significant 
changes. Generalized forms of guidance are giving place to more 
particularized attempts to fit reading materials to individual 
needs and capacities. Lists of books on various subjects, pam- 
phlets and bulletins orienting a given field, and similar guides 
for the general reader are being increasingly supplemented by a 
more personal kind of assistance. It is personal because it is 
based upon reliable information concerning a reader's particular 
interests, his educational background, and his social and eco- 
nomic status. Every effort is directed toward fitting each in- 
dividual's reading to his interests and abilities so effectively 
that it will yield him the greatest possible good. 

The problem of selecting appropriate reading materials for 
adult readers is not confined alone to voluntary reading of the 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 227 

"out-of-school" sort. It seems equally acute in connection with 
the more formalized type of reading provided for instructional 
use in school. Unfortunately, many adults cannot pursue self- 
education unaided. Among them are foreigners, illiterates, and 
others who for one reason or another missed early educational 
opportunities or who are being forced to make an immediate 
adjustment to vocational demands. 

In addition to these adults, "there are always to be found al- 
most numberless persons in whom valuations, ideals, and 
trained powers of self-education are needlessly low, due perhaps 
in part to failures of previous school educators and perhaps 
those of other agencies to hold the important goals of self- 
education in view as among desirable objectives/' 3 They meet 
in evening schools, community centers, church schools, classes 
for the unemployed, or in other of the numerous agencies apply- 
ing the traditional instructional technique for promoting edu- 
cational progress. Others are to be found in prison schools and 
in classes in county jails, where the work of education and cor- 
rection go hand in hand. 

An analysis of activities engaged in by adult-education agen- 
cies indicates that those of a cultural nature are now exceed- 
ing all others. Relatively few students are in school to satisfy 
a casual interest. Many are demanding a continuation of gen- 
eral education and are manifesting a vital interest in intellectual 
advancement. Some reading materials must therefore be pro- 
vided. More must be recommended. Their selection must aim 
to fit the needs and abilities of students at various stages of 
progress. The obligation placed upon teachers and directors is 
a serious one. It is serious, first, because the evidence seems 
conclusive that there is a dearth of good readable material for 
adults of limited ability; and, second, because an objective tech- 
nique has not been developed for determining with accuracy 
what material is readable for what persons. 

Selecting appropriate reading matter for adults is a problem 

* David Snedden, "Self-Education: A Needed Emphasis on Current Proposals for 
Adult Education," Journa I of Adult Education, II (January, 1930), 32-37. 



228 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

that extends to such educational agencies as forum, radio, and 
others which enable people to keep on learning while being en- 
tertained. Inasmuch as the forum aims to promote a broad un- 
derstanding of current problems and a critical attitude toward 
them, the value of recommended readings is obvious. In some 
communities,, one member of the library staff is in constant con- 
tact with the forum meetings. Through co-operation with the 
forum leaders, this librarian prepares book-lists and bibliog- 
raphies on numerous subjects. These are discussed and distrib- 
uted by the leader at the evening meeting. 4 In other commu- 
nities, the attempt to prepare book-lists fitted to the needs of a 
heterogeneous audience has come to be recognized as futile. 
Instead, individual book-lists which aim to fit the reading needs, 
interests, and abilities of a particular reader are prepared upon 
request. What technique to employ in order that such informa- 
tion may be secured expeditiously and book selection be made 
effectively is a problem of no small importance in reading ac- 
tivities related to the forum. 

With respect to education on the air, it is evident that no 
other educational medium can equal the radio in reaching large 
audiences. Whether the members of these audiences listen and 
learn or merely listen is a perplexing question. It is believed, 
however, that the chances of the first alternative being achieved 
are multiplied by a properly organized follow-up program. To 
this end, the National Advisory Council on Radio in Education 
has adopted two methods by which to guide listeners in follow- 
up activities. 5 The first is to distribute printed material among 
the radio audience in the form of a "Listener's Manual" or note- 
book. Each notebook contains a foreword or brief introduction 
to the field in which a particular series of lectures is delivered. 
Summaries of the lectures are then presented, followed by ques- 
tions for group discussion. Finally, there appear lists of sug- 

Mildred 0. Peterson, "Des Moines Holds Public Forums/' Library Journal, 
LVHI (May 15, 1933), 453-54. 

* Levering Tyson, Radio and Education. Proceedings of the Second Annual Assem- 
bly of National Advisory Council on Radio in Education. Chicago: University of Chi- 
cago Press, 1932. Pp. 306* 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 229 

gested readings for beginners and for more advanced students. 
The second method in the follow-up program is provided 
through co-operation with the American Library Association, 
which arranges to have books on the collateral reading-lists 
made available in libraries. 

An evaluation of these methods shows them to be far less suc- 
cessful in interesting the radio listener to read than is commonly 
expected. Probably the reading-lists themselves are partly at 
fault. In reporting to the Advisory Council in this connection, 
the official radio publishers make the following statement: "Fu- 
ture printed material for listeners should be even more carefully 
prepared and should go much farther in stimulating independ- 
ent reading and use of the information received during the broad- 
cast* More attention should be given to the gradation of the 
material in each series, and to tests and other checks to record 
the listener's progress and to stimulate him through the thrill 
which comes from knowledge of such achievement." 6 

Obviously, there is no typical radio listener, any more than 
there is a typical reader. If listeners are also to be readers of the 
subject in which they are interested, recommended readings 
must be appropriately graded from easy, short, general pres- 
entations of the subject (if there are such) for the least compe- 
tent reader to detailed, technical treatments for the scientific 
reader. 

The problem of selecting readable books is relatively less im- 
portant when viewed in its relation to the home consumer the 
reader who is also the buyer of the books he wants to read. For 
the purchasing of books does not loom high in the expenditures 
of American families. According to figures for commodity sales 
presented by the Census of Distribution, "the proportion of 
America's dollar going to the bookstore is about one-fifth of a 
cent, as compared with 19 cents to the automobile industry, 1.4 
cents to the candy store, one-third of a cent to the florists, and 
i.i cents each to jewelry stores and radio and music shops." 7 A 

6 Ibid., p. 78. 

7 CX H. Cheney, Economic Survey of the Book Industry, fgjo-r^jf (New York: Na- 
tional Association of Book Publishers, 1931), p. 56. 



230 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

detailed investigation of the living standards and expenditures 
of one hundred families of employees of the Ford Motor Com- 
pany in Detroit shows that of the total budget only one-hun- 
dredth of one per cent was spent on books. 8 Increased income 
means little difference in the buying of books. Bigger shares of 
larger incomes go to automobiles, movies, travel, vacation but 
not to books. 

How many book-buyers know exactly what book they want 
to purchase when they enter a bookshop is not known. That 
many examine a book critically before purchasing in order to see 
how nearly it suits their individual needs and interests is a fact 
to which most of us bear witness. Such persons can make their 
own selection if the right book is available. Others are more de- 
pendent upon salesmen whose information about books and read- 
ers is their best means of bringing book and buyer together. Any 
improvement in methods of obtaining either type of information 
presumably will tend to increase book sales and subsequent 
book-reading. 

The selection of the right material for the right reader, then, 
is a problem of no small consequence. Recreation for leisure 
hours, intellectual progress, even literacy itself, depends in a 
large measure on how well the problem is solved by the reader 
himself or by someone from whom he seeks advice and counsel. 

WHAT ASPECTS ARE TO BE CONSIDERED IN 
SELECTING READABLE MATERIAL? 

Selecting a readable book, like defining a readable book, is a 
highly individual problem. It depends, first, upon the reader's 
interests, needs, and abilities; and, second, upon the qualities of 
a book that make it readable for him. Information of both sorts 
must be obtained by the person who would guide a reader most 
wisely. Studies of advisory practices in libraries indicate that 
many different kinds of information are obtained by advisers as 
a group. Some advisers maintain a traditional conservatism to- 
ward Inquiring into the "ins and outs" of a person's history. 

. 58. 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 231 

Others proceed frankly and directly to enlist a patron's co-oper- 
ation in determining all factors that may influence his reading 
needs. 

Winslow has discovered, from replies of eighteen readers' ad- 
visers to a questionnaire, that information on seventy-two items 
is being secured more or less frequently by at least one adviser. 9 
The purpose of this information is indicated by the following 
statements: to determine specific interests and problems, to 
evaluate a patron's judgment and tastes, to determine the in- 
tensity of his reading interests, to determine his ability and dis- 
ability, to determine external obstacles to reading, to evaluate 
books and reading courses for a patron, and to determine a form 
of study best suited to his needs. The composite list of items 
gathered by Winslow include: age, sex, place of residence, na- 
tionality, length of residence in the United States, amount and 
nature of previous schooling, formal classes now being attended, 
personal traits aiding or handicapping the student, occupation, 
vocational ambitions, recreations and hobbies, books read in the 
past year, most interesting book ever read, subject of reading 
courses requested by the patron, reasons for electing the specific 
course, and so on, to a total of seventy-two. 

Not all librarians record the information obtained from their 
patrons. "To some librarians," Mason observes, in commenting 
on library practices, "records are vital; to others, they are 
negligible. Some seem to consider the records ahead of the read- 
er and his needs. Others fear that the mechanics will overshad- 
ow the personal equation and they neglect the great possibilities 
of service that records might render." 10 If information about a 
reader has no value beyond the immediate "sizing-up" of his 
reading needs and interests, then recording that information is 
unquestionably a needless expenditure of time and energy. If, 
on the other hand, it is to become a permanent tool which en- 

' Amy Winslow, "A Study of Data Pertinent to the Advising of Adult Readers." 
Unpublished Master's thesis, Graduate Library School, University of Chicago, 1929, 
Pp. 200. 

10 Charles W. Mason, "Adult Education and the Public Library," Library Journal^ 
Vol. LVIII, No. 18 (October 15, 1933), pp. 830-32. 



232. WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

ables an adviser to serve a patron increasingly better, then in, 
the long run, records seem both economical and practical. 

In adult classes considerable information is usually obtained 
from the student on his application for enrolment, but this is 
probably used for administrative purposes more often than for 
improvement of instructional techniques. The formalized char- 
acter of the classroom tends to encourage the assignment of 
reading to groups rather than to individuals. Hence, in classes 
organized on the basis of ability, students may be given reading 
that is fitted to their abilities rather than to their individual 
interests and needs. Some investigation is necessary in adult 
schools to determine what methods are being used in selecting 
reading material, how satisfactory these methods are, and what 
methods are most effective with different types of readers. 

Turning from the reader to the book, we may ask, What qual- 
ities about a book shall be considered in selecting one that will 
be readable for a particular group of readers? This question 
leads back to chapter ii, which gives a summary of opinion of li- 
brarians, publishers, and others interested in adult education 
with respect to what makes a book readable. The chapter also 
indicates the nature of the problems that arise in defining a book 
as readable or non-readable. They are the problems involved 
also in selecting a readable book. For one cannot define a book as 
readable save in terms of a particular group of readers. And 
once it is defined in such terms, selection is relatively simple. 

We need to know, therefore, the factors of content, style, 
organization, and format which influence the readability of a 
book for different readers who are identified with a particu- 
lar class with respect to interests, education, and social and 
economic status. Other investigators are endeavoring to discov- 
er what people want to read about. From their findings, ques- 
tions concerning interesting content are being answered. But 
we do not know what methods of presentation, what stylistic 
devices, what physical aspects of a book, or what forms of or- 
ganization appeal to different sorts of readers. Each of these 
and many other aspects must be defined for many classes of 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 233 

readers before the selection of a readable book can be reduced 
to a precise technique. 

THE PRESENT APPROACH 

In this chapter we have approached the problem of selecting 
readable books from the point of view of inherent ease or diffi- 
culty of content. We have taken the position that it is impor- 
tant, among other things, that the book should be easy enough 
to be readable. Not because ease is of necessity the primary 
consideration in selecting a readable book that remains to be 
discovered but because ease or difficulty is the aspect of read- 
ability with which this study is chiefly concerned. And it is the 
only aspect about which we have obtained objective informa- 
tion. Again we repeat, by concentrating on difficulty we in no 
way deny the importance of other factors in the total situation. 
Unquestionably the reader's interest and zeal may tend to com- 
pensate for inadequacies in reading ability and thereby alleviate 
a part of the difficulty inherent in the material. These elements, 
too, must be isolated for study. Ultimately all of them must be 
considered in conjunction with ease or difficulty as determined 
by structural elements in selecting a readable book for a particu- 
lar reader. 

Most persons who are engaged in guiding adult reading prob- 
ably agree with Chancellor that 

.... difficulty of text becomes a much less vital factor if the teacher or li- 
brarian is able to tap a reader's keen desire to learn something about some 
particular subject; that given this strong desire to get some facts and infor- 
mation on his pet interest he will master unusual difficulties of vocabulary and 
sentence structure in order to get the desired information, and that he will 
learn to read incidentally." 

This point of view, however, cannot wholly disregard difficul- 
ty of material, if we are to accept scientific evidence concerning 
the relationship between difficulty and enjoyment in reading. 
For example, Burch reports that 80 per cent df the voluntary 

" John Chancellor, "Available Reading Material for Native-Born Adult Illiterates 
and Near-Illiterates." Mimeographed. Washington, D.C., Bureau of Prisons, Depart- 
ment of Justice. 1933. 



234 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

reading among junior and senior high-school pupils is chosen 
from books which they read with an accuracy ranging from 60 
to 90 per cent, with a median of 75 per cent. 12 One may infer 
that material harder than this fails to produce in high-school pu- 
pils the satisfaction and pleasure that are effected by an easy 
book. 

McAdams has compared the effect of permitting high-school 
students to read only those books which they could comprehend 
against the effect of allowing them to read any book. 13 Her find- 
ings point to a marked relationship between enjoyment and 
comprehension and between lack of enjoyment and difficulty. 
She concludes that if high-school advisers will ascertain the level 
of comprehension, attainable by each student and then suggest 
books of an appropriate degree of difficulty, they may be able 
to keep the student's reading interests alive and active. 

A TYPICAL SITUATION 

For the purpose of illustrating how the right book from the 
point of view of structural difficulty may be selected for the 
right person, let us assume a typical situation. An adult reader 
comes to an adviser in library or classroom and requests a book 
on adventure, a reading-list in economics, or, perhaps, some 
other reading help. What the reader wants to read about is 
therefore defined at the outset. His motive for reading is implied 
in his request. Two other types of information are important. 
The first answers the question: How well can the reader read? 
The second is concerned with the query: What material bearing 
on the desired subject is appropriate in difficulty to the reader '$ 
level of reading ability? Expressing the answer to both ques- 
tions in common terms gives a simple basis for selecting books of 
appropriate difficulty. 

" Mary Crowell Burch, "Determination of a Content of the Course in Literature of 
a Suitable Difficulty for Junior and Senior High School Students," Genetic Psychology 
Monographs ', Vol. IV, Nos, 2 and 3 (August-September, 1928), p. 265. 

** Mary Ann McAdams, "The Effect of Guidance on the Reading Interests of Tenth 
Grade Pupils/' Unpublished Master's thesis, Department of Education, University of 
Chicago, 1933, Pp. no. 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 235 

The practicability and effectiveness of such a procedure for stu- 
dents in high school has been demonstrated by McAdams in her 
experimental study. As a first step in controlling pupil's read- 
ing, she assigned to each student in two experimental groups 
what she called an "enjoyment-score" in reading. This score 
was based on comprehension as measured by three reading tests, 
and was considered representative of the level of difficulty at 
which a pupil may read with ease and pleasure. Three judges 
then assigned to each of 230 books a c 'difficulty-score" obtained 
by scaling the material through the use of Standardized Oral 
Reading Paragraphs. The validity of this procedure had been 
determined earlier by experimentation. 14 Pupils in the experi- 
mental groups were requested to read only those books having a 
difficulty-score equivalent to their enjoyment-score. Pupils in 
the control groups were not assigned an enjoyment-score nor 
were they restricted in their reading. 

The findings of the study with respect to enjoyment and diffi- 
culty have been given on page 234. They support the proposal 
that reader scores representing ability and book scores repre- 
senting difficulty can be expressed in common terms, and hence 
can be used effectively in guiding book selection. Only 9,9 per 
cent of one experimental group, and 26.3 per cent of the other, 
rejected books on the ground of their being "too hard," whereas 
70,5 per cent of the unguided group found books which they at- 
tempted to read too hard. The results obtained by McAdams 
show that although her technique does not entirely eliminate 
unsatisfactory choices, it greatly reduces the chance of a pupil's 
attempting to read a book which is too difficult to be readable. 

Since the primary purpose of this chapter is to present possi- 
ble plans whereby reading ability and reading difficulty may be 
co-ordinated, it seems important to describe and to evaluate cer- 
tain procedures which are used or which may be used to that 
end. This is done in succeeding sections. 

** Laura M. Larsen, "An Objective Method of Selecting Appropriate Geographical 
Reading for Fourth-Grade Pupils." Unpublished Master's thesis, Department of Edu- 
cation, University of Chicago, 1925. Pp. 73. 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

USE OF OBJECTIVE TESTS IN DETERMINING 
HOW WELL ADULTS READ 

The most scientific method of determining how well a person 
reads is to measure his achievement by means of objective tests 
which define ability in terms of standards usually expressed as 
"grade norms/' In their study of children's reading, for exam- 
ple, Vogel and Washburne used the Stanford Achievement Test 
to determine reading scores and to establish the difficulty of 
reading materials. 15 Dale and Tyler used the Monroe Standard- 
ized Silent Reading Test in determining achievement of adults 
of limited ability. 16 They then predicted the difficulty of techni- 
cal material in terms of these scores. In the present study, rela- 
tive ranks on the Adult Reading Test have been used to identify 
"best" and "poorest" readers. Difficulty of general reading ma- 
terial is estimated in chapter vi in terms of the average reading 
score of "poorest" readers on this test. 

Several advantages may be claimed for using reading tests, 
In the first place, tests give a reliable index of reading ability in 
terms of comparable scores based on actual performance. For 
children, these numerical scores can readily be translated into 
the grades to which they correspond. If a pupil makes a test 
score equivalent to grade score 5.2, we know that he reads with 
a degree of ability normally attained in the second month of 
fifth grade. He may be expected, therefore, to read and compre- 
hend most of the material written for fourth grade and the easi- 
est material for fifth grade* A second advantage in measuring 
reading ability by reading tests lies in the fact that test scores 
may serve as a basis for grading books for difficulty. For exam- 
ple, the formula devised by Vogel and Washburne for determin- 
ing difficulty of children's books gives the reading score on the 
paragraph-meaning section of the Stanford Achievement Test 
necessary for reading the book measured. This score may be 

** Carleton Washburne, The Right Book for the Right Child. New York: John Day 
Co., 1933. Pp. 358. 

* Edgar Dale and Ralph W. Tyler, "A Study of the Factors Influencing the Difficul- 
ty of Reading Materials for Adults of Limited Reading Ability /* Library Quarterly, VoL 
IV, No. 3 (July, 1934), pp. 384-4*^ 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 237 

translated into a reading grade which shows the correct grade- 
placement for a particular book. 

On the adult level the use of tests for measuring the ability of 
the reader and for interpreting the difficulty of the material is 
more restricted. The obstacles to be met in testing adults are 
many and varied. Some are born of the testing idea itself, as 
shown in chapter iii. Others are inherent in the adult reading 
situation, which in general is not readily adaptable to a testing 
program. 

Adult reading is usually an individual, voluntary activity. A 
person reads what he wants to read, provided that it is accessi- 
ble and readable. Furthermore, he reads when and where it 
pleases him to read. Only in organized classes is he one of a 
group of readers whose reading is prescribed. Here the use of 
tests as a part of the routine of instruction is both feasible and 
desirable. Adult members of such classes co-operate willingly, 
if they believe that the testing is related in any way to their edu- 
cational advancement. For such readers there is need for read- 
ing tests constructed from adult materials and accompanied by 
norms for measuring successive stages of progress. Tests of this 
sort are now under construction. It is hoped that by their use 
one can obtain a measure of a reader's ability, which also will be 
an index of the difficulty of materials that he can read under- 
standingly. 

Whether the use of tests for measuring reading ability is prac- 
ticable in the library is another matter. Here adult-education 
service is being organized systematically but less formally than 
in the classroom. The librarian's advice or assistance is aimed 
to guide those who are seeking self-instruction. "It must be of 
first-quality, never superficial or haphazard. Neither must 
there be anything pedagogic or official or superior about it/' 17 
If advising becomes teaching, then there is danger that rapport 
between reader and adviser will be disrupted and the seeker of 
self-education will give up his enterprise offended or disgusted. 

*? Sir Henry A. Miers, "Adult Education in Relation to Libraries," Library Journal, 
Vol. LVIII, No. 8 (April 15, 1933), p. 339. 



238 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

How far the librarian can go in measuring reading ability by 
the use of tests without introducing a disastrous practice re- 
mains to be discovered. Furthermore, from the standpoint of 
time required to give and score tests, their use seems uneconom- 
ical and impracticable in everyday library practice. Important 
as it is that the librarian or readers' adviser should know the 
reading ability of library patrons in order to give systematic, 
sustained guidance, it seems probable that a less direct method 
than testing should be followed at present in obtaining this in- 
formation. 

JUDGMENT OF READING ABILITY BASED ON KNOWLEDGE 
OF MATERIALS PREVIOUSLY READ 

Indirect evidence as to how well a person can read may be ob- 
tained by the simpler and presumably more tactful method of 
measuring reading ability, not in terms of his performance on a 
test but in terms of the kind of material which he has read previ- 
ously. This method is now widely used. As an adviser becomes 
acquainted with a patron, she learns to know the type of mate- 
rial he usually reads. If he asks for a book in a new field of inter- 
est, she may be able to approximate the book he will find read- 
able in that field by recalling or finding out the magazines or 
books he has read. 

This method has the advantage of being readily applied. But 
it possesses serious limitations. In the first place one must rec- 
ogni2e the fact that subjective estimates of human abilities im- 
plied by human actions may or may not be reliable. The degree 
of reliability depends on the validity of the action as an index of 
the ability > on circumstances accompanying the action, and on 
the discrimination of the person judging the ability. Although 
these limitations are general, they have specific application for 
the adviser who judges reading ability of a patron by his previ- 
ous reading. Furthermore, the opinion of the adviser cannot be 
translated into objective terms for another to use in selecting 
reading material for the same patron. 

As a result of the present investigation, it is possible to sup- 
plement this general technique by using a classified list of ma- 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 239 

terials representative of five areas of difficulty which imply a 
similar number of levels of reading ability. The beginning of 
such a list is to be found in chapter vi and in Appendix F. The 
study of reading difficulty reported in that chapter needs to be 
extended to include all books which appear best suited to read- 
ers of average or below-average ability. With such a list, a li- 
brarian should be able to define the difficulty of a book reported 
read in terms which will indicate in a general way the area of 
difficulty best suited to the reader's ability. 

Obviously, the greater the amount of evidence obtained rela- 
tive to previous reading, the greater the degree of accuracy with 
which reading ability may be inferred. For example, if a person 
reports having read and enjoyed Carroll, As the Earth Turns, 
score .86; Colum, Cross-Roads in Ireland, score .94; and Over- 
street, About Ourselves, score .91, it is fairly certain that he can 
read understandingly books which we have ranked "easy." 
This is not to say that he may not be able to read books ranked 
"average" or "difficult." If, however, he reports that he cannot 
understand Hemon, Maria Chapdelaine, score .3 1 ; Mason, The 
Spell of Southern Shores, score .47; or Dimnet, The Art of Think- 
ing, score .51 books whose respective themes are similar to 
those of books read and enjoyed then the inference seems war- 
ranted that these so-called "difficult" books are outside his 
range of comprehension. Although we are assuming in this con- 
nection that the rejection of a book as too difficult is the result 
of structural handicaps, it is altogether probable that the diffi- 
culty lies in part in other aspects of style or content. The libra- 
rian who suspects such is the case may discover the source of 
difficulty by questioning the reader or examining the particu- 
lar book rejected. A more accurate estimate of the reader's abil- 
ity will thus be obtained. 

AN ESTIMATE OF READING ABILITY BASED ON INFORMA- 
TION CONCERNING LAST YEAR IN SCHOOL 

A third means by which some advisers estimate a patron's 
reading ability, and hence the difficulty of materials which he 
can read, is information concerning the amount of schooling he 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

has had or the last school grade attended. This type of informa- 
tion has at least one advantage. It can be obtained easily. Two 
distinct limitations attend the use of this information. In the 
first place, the last year in school is not always a reliable index 
of reading ability. Data reported in chapter iii indicate that 
students at the secondary-school and college level have been 
found to manifest a marked immaturity in their ability to read. 
Some evidence has been reported which shows that the disparity 
between educational progress and reading ability is considerably 
less among new literates and adults whose formal schooling ter- 
minated early. 

In a study carried on in the opportunity schools of South Car- 
olina, comparisons were drawn between reports of the last grade 
attended in school and reading achievement as measured by the 
Monroe Standardized Silent Reading Test. 18 Significant cor- 
respondence was noted. For 226 adult students in four groups, 
the average grade, according to statements made upon registra- 
tion, and the achievement grade on tests were respectively: 2.3 
and 2.2, 2.6 and 2.4, 5.3 and 4.9, and 6.4 and 6.9. When indi- 
vidual records, rather than average records, were compared, it 
was found that in only forty-nine cases was the discrepancy be- 
tween years in school and ability on the test greater than one 
grade. For those who claimed one or two years of schooling, the 
score exceeded the claim by less than a year. The higher the 
grade, the less the agreement between claim of previous school- 
ing and reading-score, as shown in Table LVIII. 

A close correspondence was found by Ojemann between read- 
ing ability as measured by comprehension of parent-education 
materials and number of years in school. 19 The subjects used 
were 209 parents (mainly mothers) who were attending study 
groups in a city in Iowa, the population of which approximates 
30,000. Subjects having a partial or complete elementary-school 

18 William S. Gray, Wil Lou Gray, and J. Warren Tilton, The Opportunity Schools of 
South Carolina (New York: American Association for Adult Education, 1932), pp, 
40-45. 

x R. H. Ojemann, op. cit. y p, 32. 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 



241 



education made an average score on the Ojemann test of 18.98; 
those having a partial or complete high-school education, 29 .25 ; 
and those having more than a high-school education, 34.97. A 
perfect score on the test is 45. Other things being equal, the 
greater reading ability can be ascribed to longer educational 
training. 

Although we may assume that the agreement between years 
of schooling and reading ability will be true generally, it appears 
that for adults of little education more may be implied about 

TABLE LVI1I 

AVERAGE GBADE ACHIEVEMENT IN READING BY GROUPS 

CLASSIFIED ACCORDING TO THE GRADE 

REACHED IN PUBLIC SCHOOL 



Number Cases 


Grade Reached 


Reading 
Achievement 


17 


i 


I .7 


12 


2 


2,0 


12 


3 


7.O 


2< 




4,8 


01 


$ 


<.6 


56 


6 


7, C 


76 




8 7 






' J 



reading ability than for those of broader educational back- 
ground. In the present study, last grade in school, as reported by 
756 adults, was correlated with reading ability as measured by 
the two forms of the Adult Reading Test. Correlations of ,532 
and -548 were obtained. While these correlations indicate that 
some relationship exists between last grade attended in school 
and reading ability, they show also that in individual cases 
mere claims of attendance may not be a reliable index of reading 
ability. Capacities and interests, experiences and opportunities 
all may determine whether reading ability of an adult equals or 
exceeds the normal expectancy of the last grade attended in 
school. 



242 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

A second limitation to the use of this method for estimating 
reading ability lies in its interpretation. Let us assume that an 
adult reader reports that he quit school in sixth grade. Let us 
assume further that the reader's adviser rightly estimates his 
reading ability at sixth grade. What does this mean in terms of 
adult reading materials? Up to the present time there has been 
no objective technique by means of which a reader's adviser 
could determine what book is of appropriate difficulty for a 
reader having a particular educational background and reading 
ability. 

Through the use of a classified list of materials this limitation 
can be obviated and reading ability, as represented by years of 
schooling, translated into concrete terms. For example, data 
presented in the previous chapter lead us to presume that a per- 
son whose attendance in school ended in third grade should find 
"very easy" books simple enough to read with fair understand- 
ing. These are the books having predicted scores greater than 
1.15. According to the classification which we have adapted, 
they belong to Area A. Persons reporting school attendance 
ending at fourth or fifth grade will probably find "easy "books 
best suited to their ability, provided, of course, that their edu- 
cational pursuits since that time have not carried their reading 
ability far above or below the normal expectancy of the lower in- 
termediate grades. "Average" books, especially those ranking 
at the lower extreme of Area C, may be read with ease and un- 
derstanding by persons who claim a school attendance through 
sixth grade. Books at the upper extreme of Area C presumably 
represent a degree of difficulty that persons of junior high-school 
training are able to read. Attendance through senior high school 
or college implies ability to read "difficult" or "very difficult" 
materials as they are defined in this study. That such an impli- 
cation may assume a maturity of reading beyond the actual 
truth must be granted in the light of evidence presented in chap- 
ter in. 

Probably the most to be claimed for this method is that infor- 
mation concerning number of years in school furnishes a start- 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 243 

ing-point for guidance. It locates the area of structural difficul- 
ty at which a person presumably can read and the one beyond 
which he probably cannot read easily. Greater precision in 
defining a reader's level of ability depends on supplementary in- 
formation relative to his reading interests and habits, obtained 
by one or more of the several means suggested in this chapter. 

ESTIMATING READING ABILITY BY THE EXPRESSED PREFER- 
ENCE OF AN ADULT FOR PARTICULAR MATERIALS 

A fourth method of determining the reading level of an adult 
is based on the assumption that the expressed preference of a 
reader for materials classified according to difficulty is a valid 
index of materials best suited to his reading ability. According 
to this method, an adviser should have available a variety of 
materials representing different areas of difficulty. These mate- 
rials are given to a new patron who comes for guidance, with the 
instruction that he examine each and choose the one he prefers 
to read* If he selects "easy" material in preference to that 
which is "average" or "difficult/' it may be assumed that the 
former is better suited to his needs and abilities. In making this 
assumption, however, one needs to take into account a variety 
of contributing factors inherent in the total situation. For ex- 
ample, a reader may hesitate to choose very simple material, 
particularly if it resembles children's reading. Hence, he delib- 
erately overestimates his ability even at the expense of being 
given too-difficult reading. Again, an easy book with attractive 
format may cause a reader to select it in preference to others of 
greater difficulty less pleasing in size and general appearance. 
He accordingly defines his reading ability at a level that is 
spuriously low. 

In order to guard against the influence of format, sample 
passages from books or magazines of varying degrees of difficul- 
ty may be used. Examples of such passages are given here. Se- 
lection A, an excerpt from the adapted Robinson Crusoe, repre- 
sents "very easy reading, while Selection B, from People's 
Popular Monthly > is representative of "easy" reading- Succeed- 



244 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

ing selections, C and D, represent materials that are "average" 
and "difficult," respectively. 

It may be noted that "very difficult" materials classified at 
Area E have been omitted. The reason for this lies in the fact 
that the advisory situation with which we are dealing concerns 
primarily the reader of limited ability. Presumably, he cannot 
read materials at Area E. If a reader selects a passage from 
Area D as the one he prefers to read, and if he is found actually 
to read and enjoy "difficult" books, then it may be assumed 
that he can read "very difficult" books at least reasonably well. 
Should he not be able to read books of the latter sort, it seems 
likely that other factors than those of structure influence the 
difficulty of "very difficult" materials. 

Despite the fact that the selected passages have been taken 
from books whose predicted scores rank them in areas of diffi- 
culty from A to D, respectively, their own predicted scores are 
not identical with those for the total book. For example, the 
predicted score for Selection A is 1*40, whereas the predicted 
score for the entire book is 1,06. This discrepancy is to be ex- 
pected, for the reason that the latter score represents the diffi- 
culty of a whole series of passages from the same book, of which 
Selection A is but a single sample. Both the sample and its 
source, however, belong to the "very easy" area. 

AREA A 
(Scores 1.15-2,06) 

ROBINSON CRUSOE'S BOAT 

I needed a boat. So I cut down a great tree. It was five feet ten inches 
across at the lower part, and four feet eleven inches at the top before it went 
out into branches. I was twenty days cutting through it at the bottom, and 
fourteen more days cutting away the branches. After this, it cost me a month 
to make it into the shape of a boat outside, and three months more to cut out 
the inside. Thus I made a very fine boat, big enough to carry me and all my 
goods. When I had finished this work, I was very delighted with it. There 
remained nothing but to get it into the water, 

Defoe, Daniel, Robinson Crusoe. Adapted by Michael West. New York: 
Longmans, Green & Co., 1931. Pp. 16-17. 

Predicted score, 1.40 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 245 

AREA B 

(Scores .84-1.15) 

FUN IN GARDENING 

I like to put a bit of "kick" into my own vegetable gardening by experi- 
menting, for I make my gardening "fun/* not work. One year I had a half 
dozen kinds of tomatoes and about that many varieties of beans. I also like 
to try new crops. A few years ago I successfully tried out Chinese cabbage, 
an excellent salad crop, which likes the cool weather of fall or early spring. 
When I hear of some new vegetable new to me or read of it in the many 
seed catalogs I study each winter, I try to give this new fellow a few feet in 
my garden, "just for the fun of it." People s Popular Monthly. 

Predicted score, 1.02 

AREA C 

(Scores .53-^4) 

HOW A GIRL SHOULD PREPARE HERSELF FOR A JOB 

According to Harriet Houghton, director of vocational work in the Ameri- 
can Woman's Association, the young woman should select her job as carefully 
as she selects her husband. Unless it suits her it means mostly trouble. "Ten 
years ago," says Miss Houghton, "the general-utility girl, the capable, all- 
around, Jack-of-all-trades could make a place for herself; today it's the special- 
ist everyone wants. The girl who would get ahead should decide the thing 
she likes best to do and hew to that straight line. The intelligent way for a 
girl to find the right thing is to look before she leaps analyze the job and 
analyze herself and see how the two match up." Collier's. 

Predicted score, .751 

AREA D 

(Scores .aa-,53) 

THE CONTACT MAN IN WASHINGTON 

The most conspicuous product of the bewildering multiplicity of bureaus 
and overlapping of the so-called governmental functions of Washington today 
is the neo-lobbyist, or Contact Man. Embodying the capacities of sight-seeing 
guide, house detective, and automobile salesman, this comparatively recent 
addition to the Capital's professional directory lives well by his ability to pene- 
trate quickly the maze of red tape and petty bureaucratic formality surround- 
ing every governmental official. He has at his finger tips such priceless, and 
otherwise unobtainable, information as that the Weather Bureau is a function 
of the Department of Agriculture, instead of the Department of the Interior. 
He saves time and money for anyone who has business to transact with the 
government. Atlantic Monthly. 

Predicted score, .347 



246 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

In these paragraphs length has been held relatively constant, 
each paragraph containing approximately one hundred words. 
Whether longer or shorter passages would promote more careful 
discrimination between different degrees of difficulty can be de- 
termined only by experimentation. Presumably, the passages 
should be brief enough to prevent a needless expenditure of 
time, yet long enough to insure a fairly reliable choice. 

The futility of expecting to obtain a perfectly valid index of a 
reader's ability by a single series of paragraphs must be admit- 
ted at the outset. Inasmuch as the selected illustrations deal 
with different themes, it is possible that a reader will choose Se- 
lection B, let us say, because the content is what he wants to 
read about rather than because it represents the most favorable 
degree of difficulty. Hence, he overrates or underrates his usual 
reading ability. In such circumstances, reading a second series 
of paragraphs of the same sort may result in the reader's prefer- 
ence for Selection C. Whether Area B or Area C represents the 
difficulty of reading best suited to his ability is a question that 
still needs to be answered. Presumably, the reading of several 
series of paragraphs will finally give a reasonably satisfactory 
index of the reader's ability. Such a procedure, however, is im- 
practicable in the library where an adviser must determine a 
reader's probable ability as expeditiously as possible. 

Librarians have suggested that if the content of all the para- 
graphs in a given series were held constant, and several series 
prepared for use in particular situations, the technique described 
here should bring effective and reliable information concerning a 
reader's ability* Since each paragraph in such a series deals 
with exactly the same topic as any other paragraph, a reader 
will not be diverted from his purpose by the factor of content- 
interest. Furthermore, the availability of several series, each 
dealing with a particular theme, will mean that the patron seek- 
ing guidance in reading biography, for example, reads a series of 
paragraphs on biography and selects the one he enjoys most. 
The reader of travel books will be asked to read sample passages 
about travel, and so on. 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 247 

Illustrations of the sorts of paragraphs which may be pre- 
pared for this purpose follow. They deal with the common 
theme, "The Truth about Africa/' yet each is representative of 
a degree of structual difficulty different from any other in the 
series. As in the, preceding illustration, this series includes but 
four areas of difficulty. A, B, C, and D. Again, Area E is omit- 
ted, for the reason that it represents a degree of difficulty pre- 
sumably outside the realm of comprehension for limited readers. 
The better readers who choose Selection D can probably read 
most materials with a structural difficulty defined at Area E. 

AREA A 

Africa used to be called the dark continent. It was given this name be- 
cause people knew very little about it. The name does not fit Africa today, 
but many people do not know it. They still think of Africa as the dark conti- 
nent of the world. They think that you cannot go into the center of Africa 
unless you cut your own way through the forests. They think that people who 
go to Central Africa are explorers. They do not know that people have been in 
all parts of the continent, making roads and building towns. But that is just 
what has been done. Now there are roads all over Africa, and business is 
growing fast, We cannot call Africa a dark continent any longer. 

Predicted score, 1.88 

AREA B 

People living in one country frequently have wrong ideas about another 
country. One of our most popular ideas is that Africa is still a dark continent 
as it was years ago before white men explored it. Many people believe that 
the only way to enter the center of Africa is to blaze a trail through the 
forests. So they look upon travellers from Central Africa as explorers. Ideas 
like these could be quickly changed by a glance at a collection of modern 
maps. They show that even the heart of darkest Africa has been fully ex- 
plored and that everywhere the country is open to transportation. Africa is 
too well-known and too far developed to be called a dark continent* 

Predicted score, .917 

AREA C 

It is not uncommon for certain false ideas to be believed so persistently 
that they become popular. A case in point is the popular belief that Africa is 
still a dark continent with large areas quite unknown to white men* People 
who cherish this idea believe that it is difficult to penetrate far into the interior 
of the country, that one still blazes trails and visits places and people never 
known before. They hail returning travelers from Central Africa as explorers. 



248 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

Such ideas need not persist. One glance at a collection of modern colonial 
maps would quickly establish their falsity. These maps show the heart of 
darkest Africa as it is today fully explored, perfectly well-known, occupied, 
and everywhere open to transportation. 

Predicted score, .645 

AREA D 

Among the many popular delusions that are always with us there is none 
more persistent than the current misapprehension about Africa. It still seems 
to be believed that considerable areas of the once dark continent remain prac- 
tically unknown to whites, that it is difficult to "penetrate" the remote in- 
terior, that one still blazes trails and visits places and peoples hitherto un- 
known. Returning travelers from Central Africa are hailed as explorers! Yet 
this is a delusion which could easily be dispelled. One glance at a collection of 
modern colonial maps would show the heart of darkest Africa as it is today a 
rapidly developing commercial frontier perfectly well known, thoroughly 
explored, occupied and everywhere open to transportation, Review of Reviews 

Predicted score, .393 

The selection representing Area D is an original passage taken 
from an article in Review of Reviews, a magazine ranked in the 
"difficult" class by the method described in chapter v. The pre- 
dicted index of difficulty for the passage is .39. By rewriting the 
content of the passage, with attention directed upon significant 
elements, after the manner to be presented in the next chapter, 
we obtained selections designated A, B, and C. Their indexes of 
difficulty are respectively 1.88, .92, and .65. 

In using series of paragraphs to discover reading ability, the 
following procedure is suggested: 

i. Find out the general field of interest of the reader, or the 
specific topic in which he needs guidance. 

a. Having discovered his field of interest, show him a series of 
paragraphs dealing with that field. Ask him to read the various 
selections and to indicate the paragraph he prefers to read. 

3. If time permits, or if a reader is uncertain about a prefer* 
ence, secure a second or a third choice by the use of other series 
of selections on the same general topic. 

4. Record the reading ability of the reader on his identifica- 
tion card, in terms of Areas A, B, C, or D. This information be- 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 249 

comes a permanent guide for later use in advising him about his 
reading until such time as he requests harder materials. 

The use of this method of determining the reading level of an 
adult promises to have several advantages. From the point of 
view of the reader there seems reason to believe that he will be 
saved embarrassment or wounded pride if the adviser obtains his 
preference in a perfectly frank but informal way. It seems prob- 
able, too, that he will be better served by choosing the kind of 
reading he finds most pleasant to read. From the point of view 
of the library, it appears that an economy in time may be 
effected by obtaining a measure of reading ability which simul- 
taneously indentifies the appropriate difficulty of reading mate- 
rials for the patron in question. 

The reader who chooses a very easy paragraph defines his read- 
ing ability in terms of materials at AreaA,any of which should be 
readable for him, in so far as readability can be determined by 
ease or difficulty of structural elements. But there is a marked 
scarcity of material at this level, as shown by the responses to 
Chancellor's inquiry, 20 by the testimony presented in Dicker- 
son's report," and by the experimental findings in Gray's study 
of opportunity schools in South Carolina. 23 If the reader chooses 
Paragraph C, he claims ability to read materials that exist in 
abundance. This is the area of the popular novel and magazine, 
intended for the average or near-average reader. Should he 
choose a selection at Area D, he identifies himself as a relatively 
independent reader who can read whatever material interests 
him and who finds in structural elements no very serious handi- 
cap to understanding. 

The accuracy of the reader's judgment concerning what he 
can read most effectively depends upon several circumstances. 
These include the approach made by the adviser, the reader's 

w John Chancellor, op. cit. 

L. L. Dickerson, Libraries and Adult Education, p. 58. Report of a study made by 
the American Library Association. Chicago: American Library Association, 1926. Pp. 
*8 4 . 

William S. Gray, Wil Lou Gray, and J. W. Tilton, op, cit. 



250 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

willingness to co-operate, and the reader's power to discrimi- 
nate between the paragraphs in a series. Other data may be 
used to check against the reader's judgment, such as last grade 
attended in school, last book read, best-liked book, magazine 
most enjoyed, and so on. 

If we are to allow for the influence of other qualities than a 
reader's ability, then we must admit that a self-definition of 
ability may fail to be wholly reliable. For example, let us pre- 
sume that a person is asked to read the second series of para- 
graphs. Suppose, further, that he knows very little about Afri- 
ca, which is the subject of the series. Paragraphs C and D seem 
difficult, and he therefore chooses Paragraph B. Were another 
series of paragraphs presented, the content of which is directly 
related to his greatest reading interest, and about which he had 
read widely, he might select Paragraph C, and thereby define his 
ability quite differently and perhaps more accurately. 

What we mean to emphasize is that information concerning 
one's ability as it is determined by this method may vary with 
interest in reading content, familiarity with the material, and 
other qualities that influence what one is able to read. The more 
closely the series corresponds to the field of the reader's interest, 
the greater the accuracy that may be expected. 

In presenting these methods of determining how well a reader 
can read, we do not presume to say which is the best one to use. 
This depends upon the advisory situation. We can go no farther 
than to point out the advantages and limitations of each meth- 
od. It remains for readers* advisers to put to practical test the 
method, or combination of methods, best suited to their own 
situations. To this end the selection of books may be made 
more effective through a careful definition of each individual's 
ability to read. 

SELECTING READING MATERIALS OF 
APPROPRIATE DIFFICULTY 

When the adviser has learned how well a patron can read and 
has interpreted his ability in terms of the difficulty of reading 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 251 

materials, her next task is to select from available material that 
which most nearly approaches the desired level. Were reading 
materials distributed more evenly over the whole area of diffi- 
culty, the task would be far less complicated. Of materials used 
in the present study, relatively few were found to have an actual 
or predicted difficulty equivalent to Area A. A somewhat larger 
number rank at Areas B and D, and still more fall in the average 
area, C. 

What to give the reader who finds 'Very easy" material 
adapted to his needs is a problem. It is perhaps more acute for 
the teacher or adults of limited reading ability than for the li- 
brarian. For the beginning adult reader frequently feels ineligi- 
ble to library privileges. He reads what the classroom teacher 
recommends or what he is able to find independently. Much of 
the latter reading is not available in library or classroom, where 
materials are chosen for their literary worth. It is available at 
newsstand and cigar store in the form of wood-pulp magazines 
and cheap fiction. In these "literary" dregs is to be found adult 
content presented with a simplicity of expression which can be 
approached by nothing else in the field of adult reading save 
the few special adaptations shown in Figure 23. That many 
persons do read this kind of material, either from necessity or 
preference, is evidenced by the enormous circulation figures of 
magazines of low-grade fiction. How to guide the reading in- 
terests of such readers toward more wholesome satisfactions is 
the problem with which adult workers and librarians constantly 
are grappling. 

But guidance in reading is far from being restricted solely to 
persons of limited reading ability. In the library it is as compre- 
hensive as the patronage requesting it, and that, as we have 
said, represents a wide range of interests and abilities. Hence 
librarians and readers' advisers daily find themselves directing 
the reading activities of both good and poor readers. For, 
whether by one of the methods just described, or by intuition, 
librarians somehow do discover in most cases, perhaps who 
are the good, the mediocre, and the poor readers. And having 



252 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

made such a discovery they recommend or select books which 
they believe will suit the needs of their patrons. 

Undoubtedly much book-selection is made on the basis of 
inspection, sometimes with the book actually in hand, frequent- 
ly from memory. Often, a hasty thumbing through the card 
catalogue or through book-lists, or a moment's reflective com- 
parison of available books is enough, and the recommendation 
is made. Again, the librarian-adviser engages in painstaking 
search for an elusive article or book that promises to be the 
right one for a particular reader. She has catalogued it mentally 
as to content-appeal, difficulty, and other qualities which ex- 
perience has shown are important in book selection. 

Such practices as these are probably as old as the library it- 
self. Often they result in the selection of the right book for a 
particular reader the frequency of success probably being in 
direct ratio to the insight and efficiency of the adviser. Some- 
times they fail. And it is in the failure of personal opinion that 
the need arises for a more objective means of selecting books 
suited to the ability of adult readers. 

As we outline possible procedures for classifying books with 
respect to difficulty, we are assuming that such a classification 
will aid librarians, readers' advisers, and teachers of adults in 
selecting and recommending books for others to read. Whether 
our assumption is sound remains to be proved by a comparative 
study of book-selection as it is now carried on in specific situa- 
tions and as it would be carried on through the aid of the more 
objective methods proposed in the following sections. 

In the advisory situation set up at the outset of this chapter 
the reader's interest, it will be remembered, has been defined in 
his request. The task of the adviser, therefore, is to select from 
available material bearing on the reader's field of interest con- 
tent suited to his reading ability. It is with this task in mind 
that we present various methods of classifying reading materials 
on the basis of structural difficulty. As was pointed out earlier, 
other factors which determine difficulty must ultimately be con- 
sidered. 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 253 

CLASSIFYING READING MATERIAL BY A PREDICTED 
INDEX OF DIFFICULTY 

The most precise method now available involves the use of a 
regression equation, as illustrated in chapter vi. By such a tech- 
nique an index of difficulty is determined for all widely read 
books or for all books that readers of limited ability presumably 
can read. These indexes give a means of classifying books into 
areas of difficulty ranging from 'Very easy" to "very difficult/' 

Recording the difficulty-value for a given book inside the cov- 
er or in the card catalogue gives a ready means of determining 
whether the book is appropriate in difficulty for a reader of giv- 
en ability. Probably the numerical index, as well as its relative 
rank, should be recorded if the difficulty-value of a book is to be 
of greatest service in an advisory situation. The reason for this 
recommendation lies in the close relationship between difficulty- 
values of books at extremes of adjacent areas. As pointed out 
earlier, an average book (C) with a predicted score of .80, let us 
say, is not significantly more difficult than an easy book (B), 
with a predicted score of .86. For a reader of "B" ability, then, 
one book is about as appropriate from the point of view of struc- 
tural difficulty as the other. 

Since the time required to predict the difficulty of a single 
book may reach several hours, every effort should be made not 
to duplicate computations. Doubtless the best and the most 
economical service can be obtained through a central agency 
which will calculate the index of difficulty for each book, inter- 
pret this index in relative terms, and then transmit both types of 
information to librarians and teachers of adults. Such an agen- 
cy was instituted in connection with the present study under 
financial sponsorship of the federal government. Its services 
were used in rating the difficulty of the 350 books listed in 
Appendix F. 

This work represents only a beginning of what must be done 
in simplifying and improving the adviser's task of selecting ma- 
terials suited to a reader's ability. More of the old books must 
be studied and their difficulty determined objectively. New 



254 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

books need to be given an index of difficulty on accession. Pam- 
phlets and brochures on a variety of topics should be rated for 
structural difficulty and made available for ready recommenda- 
tion in guiding adult reading. Finally, of course, classification 
must be made on the basis of total readability for specific kinds 
of readers when the necessary objective information for such a 
classification will have been obtained. 

RANKING READING MATERIALS FOR RELATIVE DIFFICULTY 
WHEN ELEMENTS ARE CONSIDERED OF EQUAL WEIGHT 

Many investigators have attempted to determine reading 
difficulty by counting one or more significant structural ele- 
ments inherent in the content. By this method, which has been 
described in chapter v, all elements are assumed to bear some re- 
lationship to difficulty. They are accordingly given equal 
weight in ranking materials, whereas they, are given relative 
weight when combined into a single agency of prediction repre- 
sented by the regression equation. 

A few investigators have gone farther and have suggested 
tentative norms for different reading levels in terms of certain 
elements. Lewerenz, for example, has created grade norms on 
the basis of standardized tests and established a definite grade- 
placement for percentage of occurrence of words beginning with 
tv, h, b y /, or <?. 23 He has applied these norms extensively in de- 
termining grade-placement of newspapers, textbooks, fiction, 
and scientific books. 24 Since interpretation of the grade-place- 
ment is in terms of comprehension as measured by the Stanford 
Achievement Test, the method is more directly useful for grad- 
ing children's reading than that of adults. Furthermore, the 
findings of this study do not point to a significant relationship 
between w, h> b, i, and e words and reading difficulty of adults, 

Johnson has suggested tentative norms in percentage of poly- 

3 Alfred S, Lewerenz, "Measurement of the Difficulty of Reading Materials," Edu 
cational Research Bulletin (Los Angeles City Schools), VIII (March, 1919), 11-16. 

8 4 Alfred S. Lewerenz, "Objective Measurement of Diverse Types of Reading Ma- 
terials," Los Angeles Educational Research Bulletin^ IX (October, 1929), 8-11. 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 255 

syllabic words in the different grades. 25 The use of this measure 
gives results corresponding to the rating of books on the basis of 
technical words, a method which was devised by Pressey. 26 Al- 
though polysyllables have been found in the present study to 
bear significant relationship to difficulty, other elements appear 
to give a more reliable single index of difficulty for adults. 

Estimating the level of difficulty to which a particular book 
belongs, by use of elements of difficulty discovered in chapter iv, 
involves two steps : first, counting the number or percentage of 
certain significant elements as described in chapter v; and, sec- 
ond, comparing the average occurrence of these elements with 
the standard given in Table LXV, chapter viii, in order to desig- 
nate the area of difficulty, A, B, C, D, or E. The standards shown 
in this table give the range of occurrence and the median occur- 
rence of five elements as well as the variation of occurrence in 
terms of the upper and lower quartile. These measures were 
found to characterize materials at successive areas of difficulty. 
They were derived from the distribution of each element in 
books whose average reading-score falls within the area repre- 
sented. A total of 350 books listed in Appendix F were used in 
obtaining these standards. 

The steps to be followed in estimating difficulty by this meth- 
or are: 

1. Sample a book by selecting a series of passages approxi- 
mately one hundred words in length, as before. 

2. Analyze each passage for the occurrence of significant ele- 
ments shown in Table LXV. The number of elements counted 
depends upon the degree of precision desired. If, for example, 
the use of three or four elements agrees with the standards of a 
particular level in Table LXV, the results may be accepted as 
adequate for all practical purposes. 

3. Average the occurrence of the elements counted in the 

*s George K. Johnson, "An Objective Method of Determining Reading Difficulty/' 
Journal of Educational Research, XXI (April, 1930), 1283-87. 

96 L. C. Pressey, "Determination of the Technical Vocabulary of School Subjects/' 
School and Society XX (July 19, 1924), 91-96. 



256 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

analysis to secure an average occurrence in an average hundred- 
word selection. 

4. Compare the obtained averages with the standards shown 
in Table LXV. 

5. Assign to the book the area of difficulty A, B, C, D, or E 
which it most nearly represents. Agreement with the upper 
quartile places the book at the difficult extreme of any level. 
Agreement with the median places it midway at any level. 
Agreement with the lower quartile ranks it at the easy end of 
any leveL 

Ranking by this method has been shown by limited investiga- 
tion to be about as reliable as the use of a regression equation. 
A coefficient of .54 was obtained by correlating the relative 
ranking of several books of fiction with their absolute difficulty 
expressed in terms of the average reading scores made by adults 
of limited ability. A higher correlation of .66 was found between 
estimated difficulty of non-fiction materials and their absolute 
difficulty. 

SCALING MATERIALS FOR DIFFICULTY 

A third method of determining the difficulty of reading mate- 
rial involves comparisons with specimens which constitute a 
scale. For this purpose, the sample paragraphs representing 
Areas A, B, C, and D, on pages 244-45, are taken as a scale of 
difficulty. The difficulty of a particular book is the difficulty- 
value of the specimen of the scale which it most nearly resem- 
bles. This is determined by a technique of scale usage, which in 
the field of tests and measurements is designated the "ascend- 
ing-descending" method. 

The method requires that a sample paragraph from a particu- 
lar book be moved from A, the lowest step on the scale, toward 
the higher steps until the judge decides that the specimen on the 
scale is more difficult than the paragraph being measured. He 
then begins with D, the highest point shown on the scale, and 
compares the paragraph with successively lower steps until a 
point is reached at which the specimen on the scale is easier than 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 257 

the paragraph in hand. The paragraph then receives a rating 
represented by agreement between the two rankings or by an 
average of the two rankings. For example, if in ascending the 
scale, a paragraph is ranked C, and in descending, it is ranked B, 
its final value is either at the lowest extreme of C or the highest 
extreme of B. The number of paragraphs sampled from a book 
depends on the time available and the accuracy desired. One 
paragraph from each chapter is generally adequate. An average 
of the ranking of all the samples gives the index of difficulty for 
the entire book. 

Since experience in the use of scales for other purposes has 
given evidence that two or more persons working together tend 
to secure more satisfactory results than does the independent 
worker, it is probable that more than one scaling is desirable. 
Even then the results for the present use are probably less pre- 
cise than those obtained by the regression equation or by rank- 
ing on the basis of the occurrence of several elements of difficul- 
ty. That the reliability of scaling tends to increase with training 
and practice has been shown by previous investigation in other 
fields. 27 

In order to try out the foregoing method of scaling reading 
materials for difficulty, we enlisted the co-operation of two li- 
brarians interested in the plan. They were asked to scale twen- 
ty-five books for difficulty by two different techniques. The 
first involved the use of the Standard Oral Reading Para- 
graphs, which were scaled on the basis of the rate and accuracy 
of recognizing the words involved. The second involved the use 
of specimens from the Adult Reading Test, which were scaled on 
the basis of difficulty with respect to comprehension. In both 
cases, ten paragraphs of each book were scaled by the ascending- 
descending method, and the ten values thus obtained were aver- 
aged to give a difficulty-value to the book as a whole. 

The first method was based on pure inspection, that is, on the 
visual matching of each sample paragraph with specimens on 

*i W. S. Monroe, J. C. De Voss, and F. J. Kelly, Educational Tests and Measurements 
(Boston*. Houghton MifHin Co., 1917), p. 158. 



258 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

the scale. The second introduced analytical judgment of com- 
prehension, that is, a comparison of the elements which influ- 
ence difficulty of comprehension as they occur in the sample 
paragraph and in the specimens on the scale. Both methods re- 
sulted in notable agreement, the ratings tending to draw closer 
and closer together as the scaling was continued. Conferences 
between judges also tended to give uniformity to their ratings. 

Both judges expressed a preference for the second method. 
They agreed that an analytical study of elements of difficulty 
accompanying the scaling process leads to greater accuracy than 
pure inspection. A skilful reader, they contended, cannot make 
comparisons easily without comprehending the meaning of the 
passage. It is therefore a more familiar exercise than the visual 
matching involved in sheer inspection. 

Since the judges felt more assurance in using the second 
method than the first, it actually took less time to analyze and 
compare the paragraphs for difficulty of comprehension than to 
scale them by general impression. It must be admitted that at 
the outset both judges were somewhat skeptical of arriving at 
any uniformity of rating by either method. At the termination 
of several practice periods distributed through three or four 
weeks, they expressed a confidence that the second method 
would prove helpful in recommending books for adult readers 
whose reading ability could be estimated. 

Although it is important to discover that librarians agree on 
the difficulty-value of a selection, it seems more important to 
discover how reliable the value is on which they do agree. That 
is to say, if they agree in their scaling, for example, that Cimar- 
ron belongs at Area C, is their scaling correct? Or does Cimar- 
ron belong at Area B ? It is at this point that the scaling method 
of determining difficulty falls short of the two methods present- 
ed in previous sections. We have calculated reliability coeffi- 
cients to prove just how reliable will be the index of difficulty 
obtained by use of the regression equation or by mere counting 
of significant elements. The same degree of reliability, then, 
may be expected for the difficulty-value of any book determined 



HOW TO SELECT READING MATERIALS 259 

by any person, granting his ability to do the simple arithmetical 
processes necessary. Scaling, on the other hand, involves a cer- 
tain degree of subjectivity. The extent to which this may be re- 
duced determines, for the most part, the reliability of the values 
thus obtained. 

We have some evidence bearing on this procedure obtained 
from the experiment just reported. Most of the twenty-five 
books which the librarians scaled for difficulty had already re- 
ceived an absolute difficulty- value from testing. It was possible, 
therefore, to estimate the reliability of the values assigned by 
the librarians. Not only did scaled values obtained by analysis 
tend to agree more frequently with absolute values than did 
those obtained by pure inspection, but variation from absolute 
values tended to be less. It appears, then, that scaling can be 
refined, if inspection is supplemented by comparing certain ele- 
ments of difficulty in the sample paragraph with those in speci- 
mens on the scale. As in earlier techniques, the elements used 
for comparison include different hard words, personal pronouns, 
average sentence-length, percentage of different words, and 
prepositional phrases. Care should be taken to utilize para- 
graphs of a length comparable to that of the specimens and to 
express the occurrence of the elements as a ratio of one hundred 
words. 

Whatever the method used to classify materials for difficulty, 
it must be not only economical of time for librarians and advis- 
ers but reliable enough to prove a valuable aid in selecting the 
right book for the right reader. 

SUMMARY 

This chapter has proposed several methods for the use of li- 
brarians, readers' advisers, teachers of adults, and other persons 
who are called upon to select materials of appropriate difficulty 
for adult readers. Each method assumes that two types of in- 
formation are essential One type is concerned with how well a 
particular adult can read, the other, with how easy or difficult 
is available material bearing on the field of the reader's interest. 



260 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

Each method further assumes that these two types of informa- 
tion will be most useful if they are translated into common 
terms whereby a definition of reading ability automatically 
identifies materials of appropriate difficulty. 

Although the chapter has suggested techniques intended to 
improve the selection of readable books, it does not claim to 
solve the whole problem. It has, rather, reduced the total prob- 
lem of selection by a consideration of one aspect, that of fitting 
materials to the reader's ability when fitness is defined in terms 
of appropriate structural difficulty. Beyond this, the chapter 
has gone no farther than to indicate the kind of procedure need- 
ed: first, in securing other information about a book than diffi- 
culty; second, in reducing such information to a common de- 
nominator of quality or quantity; and finally, in utilizing it in 
the selection of a book a particular kind of reader will find read- 
able. 

How valuable these procedures may be in actual practice re- 
mains to be determined. Each must be submitted to experi- 
mentation in advisory situations of library and classroom. This 
is necessary in order to discover whether the findings with re- 
spect to structural difficulty actually improve the selection of 
materials for particular readers. If evidence is found to prove 
their practical importance, then there is promise that the identi- 
fication of other aspects of readability may objectify and simpli- 
fy the task of selecting appropriate reading materials for differ- 
ent classes of readers. 



CHAPTER VIII 
HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 

TTN TURNING from the problem of selecting readable books 
I to the problem of preparing readable books, we are led to 
-" ask a number of questions. What sorts of readable books 
are now available? What qualities shall be considered in pre- 
paring a book that is readable? What steps have been taken to 
improve the readability of books for adults of limited educa- 
tion? With what success have readable books been prepared for 
such readers? How can information concerning elements of dif- 
ficulty be used in making books readable for adults of limited 
schooling? 

Most of these questions pertain to the problem in general. 
The last question points to one aspect of readability ease of 
reading and asks how findings obtained by this study may be 
used to improve the readability of books for adult readers in 
general and for adults of limited education in particular. 

So much has been said throughout this report of the need for 
readable books that there is danger of being misunderstood. 
We are not implying that there are no readable books. All of us 
have read and are reading them. We have little trouble in label- 
ing a book readable or unreadable for ourselves, despite the 
lack of a thoroughgoing definition of a readable book. We are 
less confident about readable books for others. As has been fre- 
quently repeated, to label a book readable is to imply knowl- 
edge of the reader, his interests, needs, tastes, and abilities. It 
further implies knowledge of the book details of content, style, 
format, organization all the aspects that may make a book 
easy and pleasant for a particular person to read* 

READABLE BOOKS ARE OF MANY KINDS 

What are the books that we find readable? They are of many 
kinds books of fiction and books on art, history, philosophy, 



262 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

economics, geography, psychology, as well as other more or less 
specialized subjects. Some readable books are intended for "in- 
school" use in adult classes; many more are for general "out-of- 
school/' voluntary reading. They tend to present fiction more 
often than fact. Occasionally a readable book is also a "good" 
book; more often it is, as Cheney has said in his survey of the 
book industry, "one of hundreds which are good possibilities, 
badly botched, or bubbles cleverly ballyhooed." 1 

The reason seems clear. The good, readable book for out-of- 
school reading has been too long the accidental product of a 
writer who has the intuition to "sense" his reader's mind or who 
can dissolve the jargon of a timely topic into language the man 
of the street can understand. The good readable book for in- 
school use has been the outcome of observations of particular 
groups and analyses of what they need to read and what they 
want to read. Few writers have found the secret of writing read- 
ably for large groups of readers or, having found it, know that 
they have it. A large number, on the other hand, fall short of 
writing readably. This is true not because they lack the poten- 
tialities for doing so. It is, rather, because, being engrossed 
in ideas, they unconsciously neglect words and phrases which 
make ideas easy and pleasant for the largest possible audience 
to read. Their books may be "good," but they are not read- 
able. These are the writers who presumably will profit most 
from knowledge of what qualities make a book readable for a 
particular class of readers. 

TEW BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE FOR ADULTS 
OF LIMITED ABILITY 

Directors and teachers of organized classes for adults are vig- 
orous in their contention that the educational progress of adults 
of delayed schooling depends in a measure upon the preparation 
of more material to meet their needs. These teachers and direc- 
tors are demanding books of adult interest* They want brief 

* 0. H* Cheney, Economic Survey of the Book Industry, *93<>"3i (New York: National 
Association of Book Publishers, 1931), p* 98, 



HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 263 

books dealing with social and economic themes, presented in 
simple form and style, and graded to conform with successive 
stages of progress to the point where systematic instruction 
ends. 

Chancellor's inquiry shows that attempts to provide adults of 
limited education with readable material for instructional use 
have met with varying degrees of success. Textbooks written 
particularly for use in Americanization classes commonly re- 
ceive two sorts of criticism. One is directed against the patron- 
izing or childish style in which the rudiments of information 
bearing on American life are presented. The other criticism 
points to the rapid increase in difficulty which makes the book 
unreadable for the beginning reader of English. In some books 
the difficulty progresses from primer level to the approximate 
level of fourth grade, all within a range of two hundred pages or 
less. There is little or no opportunity for the learner to gain flu- 
ency at one level before proceeding to the next. 

In some few instances these criticisms are obviated by grad- 
ing the reading material within a series rather than within a 
single book. But graded series of adult books are rare. Of the 
few now available, the last book in the series tends to be least 
satisfactory. It assumes a maturity of reading habits far beyond 
what teachers of adults claim can reasonably be attained by the 
use of the earlier books in the series. Slow progress in reading is 
the inevitable result. With more adequate information concern- 
ing the elements related to difficulty for adult readers, textbooks 
can be graded more satisfactorily. For grading is a matter of 
method. And method of how a thing is to be accomplished de- 
pends upon what is to be accomplished. We may argue, there- 
fore, that a definition of qualities which make a book readable 
for certain classes of readers is the first step in preparing text- 
books whose readability is attained not by chance but by design 
and whose use will promote progress in reading for adult learn- 
ers. 

As already indicated, librarians are vigorous in their plea for 
simple, out-of-school reading materials for adults of limited ex- 



264 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

perience with books. What to select for men and women who 
have done little or no serious reading, yet who suddenly show 
interest in an informational field, is a perplexing problem. They 
want books on Technocracy, Inflation, National Defense, War 
Debts, the New Deal, and other timely topics. But what is 
available on these subjects? Too often nothing more than pro- 
found discussions of basic principles or abstract statistical trea- 
tises. Frequently these are presented in an involved and ob- 
scure style baffling to the reader whose understanding depends 
upon concrete, human content, simply and lucidly written. 

Objective evidence presented in Figure 23, chapter vi, sup- 
ports the testimony of librarians and teachers of adult classes to 
the effect that the supply of readable books for readers of lim- 
ited ability is now inadequate. The figure indicates roughly the 
relative amount of material available at Areas A, B, C, D, and 
E. Within some limitations it shows that many books are read- 
able at Area C, whereas the number at Area A is undoubtedly 
limited. We do not mean to imply that difficulty is the pre- 
dominant aspect of readability nor that a classification on that 
basis presents the whole picture. Such a classification, however, 
probably does more than hint at gaps in the long up-grade from 
the adapted Robinson Crusoe to Jean Christophe, 

Figure 23 also makes clear that many so-called "easy" books 
must be made still easier if the adult who is just beginning to 
read is to find material which will make possible his continuous 
reading progress. What are commonly designated " better* * 
books of biography, history, economics, and science need to be 
written in a simplicity of language and brevity of statement 
that are comprehensible to the reader of lesser ability who hope- 
fully attempts to eke out limited education by voluntary read- 
ing. 

''BETTER'* THEMES BE PRESENTED SIMPLY? 



A brief survey of experiments now being carried on gives 
proof that "better" themes can be presented simply. In the 
field of newspaper writing, we have American News which prints 



HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 265 

"the news of the week in Swenson's 900 words." Here we find 
such so-called difficult subjects as "money plans/' "recovery 
plans/' "preparation for war/' and so on, presented in a way 
that reduces vocabulary difficulties to a minimum. The mate- 
rial ranks in difficulty at Area B, as shown by a predicted score 
of 1. 14. This score is obtained by use of five elements: different 
hard words, personal pronouns, sentence-length in words, per- 
centage of different words, and number of prepositional phrases. 
Greater simplicity might be effected in this newspaper by de- 
creasing the average length of sentences and reducing the num- 
ber of prepositional phrases. 

A second literary experiment is Ilin's New Russia's Primer, 
which illustrates a recent attempt in Russia to enlighten mil- 
lions of untutored persons concerning themes of great social sig- 
nificance. Vital content, dramatic style, and simple expression 
have been combined to produce a book readable for Russian 
children from twelve to fourteen years of age. The English 
translation by Counts and Lodge may be somewhat more diffi- 
cult for the reason that the translators have aimed primarily to 
preserve the spirit and substance of the original rather than its 
simplicity. However, the difficulty of the translation is prob- 
ably not greatly increased, as shown by the ranking of the Eng- 
lish version at Area B in Figure 23, chapter vi. This is the area 
which we have designated tentatively as appropriate for the 
intermediate grades. 

A third experiment worthy of mention is the simplification of 
standard novels for adults who cannot read the originals. Not 
all simplifications have been endorsed as readable for the class 
of reader for whom they are intended. Frequently the adapted 
book is an abridgment of the original which possesses qualities 
of interest and literary worth but which lacks simplicity of ex- 
pression. In some cases this abridgment is difficult for adults of 
limited reading ability, for the reason that extent of vocabulary, 
length and form of sentences, and other elements have not been 
simplified enough to effect a satisfactory ease of reading. For 
example, the predicted difficulty of Michael West's adapted 



266 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



Treasure Island is approximately that of Stevenson's original 
edition, when difficulty is measured by the occurrence of certain 
structural elements. The index of difficulty predicted for the 
former is .69; for the latter, .64. The chief difference between 
the two versions, as shown in Table LIX, is in the number of 
different hard words. This difference is the result of the author's 
intention to bring the original novel within the vocabulary of 

TABLE LIX 

AVERAGE OCCURRENCE OF FIVE ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY IN 

HUNDRED-WORD SAMPLINGS OF TwO VERSIONS 

OF Treasure Island 



Original 




Adapted 


(Predicted 


Elements of Difficulty 


(Predicted 


Score, 0.64) 




Score 0,69) 


20.2 


Number of different hard words 


13-0 


9.92 


Number of personal pronouns 


10.4 


a8. 3 


Average length of sentence in words 


29.2 


68.0 


Percentage of different words 


69.5 


11,7 


Number of prepositional phrases 


9.0 



the Ntw Method Readers lA-V. This vocabulary contains 1,779 
words, of which 1,669 are am ong the 2,000 commonest words in 
the English language. 2 

A second illustration of the relatively slight modification 
made in structural difficulty may be found in the adaptation of 
Moby Dick y by Sylvia Chatfield Bates. The predicted difficulty 
of the original is o.a8, which ranks the book at Area D. The 
adapted text has a predicted score of 0.75 which gives it a rank- 
ing at Area C. The most marked difference between the two 
books is found in length. Melville's Moby Dick is a long novel of 
some 500 to 600 pages. Bates has told the gist of the story in 
about 115 pages. 

Differences in the occurrence of structural elements may be 
seen in Table LX. It presents the average occurrence of each 

9 Michael West, New Method Readers for Teaching English to Foreign Children, 
Descriptive Booklet. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1929* Pp. 76. 



HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 267 

element in a series of hundred-word samples, one from each 
chapter of the two books. But three elements appear to be 
markedly changed by simplification: percentage of monosylla- 
bles, percentage of simple sentences, and average sentence- 
length in words. A relatively high percentage of different words 
persists in the simplified text despite the author's effort to re- 
duce the range of vocabulary through the use of two word-lists, 

TABLE LX 

AVERAGE OCCURRENCE OP SEVEN ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY IN 

HUNDRED-WORD SAMPLINGS OF TWO VERSIONS 

OF Moby Dick 



Original 
(Predicted 
Score, 0.28) 


Elements of Difficulty- 


Adapted 
(Predicted 
Score, 0.75) 


29.1 
42.0 

73-5 
27.0 
32.2 
8-7 
"3 


Number of different hard words 
Percentage of monosyllables 
Percentage of different words 
Percentage of simple sentences 
Average length of sentences in words 
Number of personal pronouns 
Number of prepositional phrases 


22.2 

75-4 

70.9 
51.0 

18.2 

9.8 

10.3 



Rej all's 4,000- Word List and the first 5,000 words in Thorn- 
dike's List. The range of selection possible from these two lists 
obviously does not insure a highly restricted vocabulary. 

What changes have been made in adapting other classics for 
readers of meager reading experience ? Tables LXI-LXI V an- 
swer this question for four books: Robinson Crusoe, Silas Mar- 
ner, Les Miserable*, and The Vicar o/Wakefield. Predicted scores 
for the first three original texts, 0.26, 0*13, and 0.20 respec- 
tively, place them at Area E with respect to structural difficulty. 
This is the area of 'Very difficult" books. The predicted scores 
for the same three adapted texts, 2.06, 1.24, and 1,26, rank them 
at Area A. They are "very easy" books, representative of the 
simplest material now available for adults. A considerably less 
degree of simplification is manifested by West's adaptation of 
7 he Vicar of Wakefield. Its predicted score, .82, marks it an 



268 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



"easy" book as against a score of .25 for the "difficult" original 
version. It is evident from the tables that the difficulty of the 
original Robinson Crusoe lies in length and structure of its sen- 

TABLE LXI 

AVERAGE OCCURRENCE or SEVEN ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY IN 

HUNDRED- WORD SAMPLINGS OF Two VERSIONS 

OF Robinson Crusoe 



Original 
(Predicted 
Score, 0.26) 


Elements of Difficulty 


Adapted 
(Predicted 
Score, 2,06) 


19-3 
76.9 
67.0 
4,0 

74-5 
12,3 

n ,i 


Number of different hard words 
Percentage of monosyllables 
Percentage of different words 
Percentage of simple sentences 
Average length of sentences in words 
Number of personal pronouns 
Number of prepositional phrases 


6.0 

3-3 

41.4 
32.0 

12.0 

'3-5 
9.8 



TABLE LXII 

AVERAGE OCCURRENCE OF SEVEN ELEMENTS OP DIFFICULTY IN 

HUNDRED- WORD SAMPLINGS OF Two VERSIONS 

OF Silas Marner 



Original 




Adapted 


(Predicted 


Elements of Difficulty 


(Predicted 


Score, 0.13) 




Score, 1,24} 


28.3 


Number of different hard words 


i 4 .6 


72.0 


Percentage of monosyllables 


75.8 


71.9 


Percentage of different words 


65.5 


14.0 
41.7 


Percentage of simple sentences 
Average length of sentences in words 


46.0 

13.0 


9-3 


Number of personal pronouns 


3-4 


12,0 


Number of prepositional phrases 


6.7 



tences. These two elements have been notably simplified* Silas 
Marner and Les Miserables illustrate what an author can accom- 
plish by modifying several elements in the direction of simplicity 
of expression- 



HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 269 

A fourth experiment the writing of scientific and other types 
of material in basic English represents an effort to present 
better themes simply. It will be commented upon later in its 
relation to the Basic English Vocabulary List. 

TABLE LXIII 

AVERAGE OCCURRENCE OF FIVE ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY IN 

HUNDRED- WORD SAMPLINGS OF Two VERSIONS 

OF Les Mis erases 



Original 




Adapted 


(Predicted 


Elements of Difficulty 


(Predicted 


Score, 0.20) 




Score, 1.26) 


29.9 


Number of different hard words 


8.0 


5-7 


Number of personal pronouns 


13.0 


41.2 


Average length of sentence in words 


10.9 


68.3 


Percentage of different words 


66.4 


13-1 


Number of prepositional phrases 


8-5 



TABLE LXIV 

AVERAGE OCCURRENCE OF FIVE ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY IN 

HUNDRED- WORD SAMPLINGS OF Two VERSIONS OF 

The Vicar of Waksficld 



Original 
(Predicted 
Score, 0.25) 


Elements of Difficulty 


Adapted 
(Predicted 
Score, 0.82) 


25.8 
10.3 
35-6 
73-o 

12.8 


Number of different hard words 
Number of personal pronouns 
Average length of sentence in words 
Percentage of different words 
Number of prepositional phrases 


20. o 

13-9 

iS.8 

70.2 
10.3 



WHAT SHALL BE CONSIDERED IN PREPARING 
A READABLE BOOK? 

The four experiments just mentioned seem to point to a defi- 
nite tendency among a few authors to write down to the under- 
educated millions who lack the reading experience of the larger 
proportion of adults. What is the secret of writing readably? 



270 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

Is it some kind of a magic art? Or is it a technique acquired 
through persistent effort to create that which a particular au- 
dience will find easy and pleasant to read? For example, do 
Will Rogers and Arthur Brisbane possess a peculiar gift of se- 
lecting topics of high social, civic, and personal interest and of 
presenting them simply and vitally? Are these two writers con- 
sciously aiming to reach the masses rather than the more dis- 
criminative reader? Whatever the answer, there is no denying 
that they are writing what the reader of Dream World can read 
and understand and what the reader of Atlantic Monthly may 
read if he chooses. 

Evidence in support of this statement is shown by Lewerenz, 
who has secured interesting facts relative to the degree of sim- 
plicity characterizing certain types of newspaper material. He 
has graded the material for vocabulary-difficulty by the use of 
a grade-placement formula described earlier. 3 His findings show 
that in Will Rogers' "Remarks" there is found a vocabulary 
diversity adapted to a reading grade-level of 4.6. According to 
Lewerenz this is about the level represented by the ordinary 
comic strip. Brisbane's news comment 'Today" contains a di- 
versity of vocabulary which is equivalent to grade 6.2. This is 
the level generally maintained by editorials in the newspapers 
read most widely by the working-class. It is also the level of 
local and sporting news a level at least two years below the 
editorials found in newspapers most commonly read by profes- 
sional and business groups. 

If we examine the writings of Rogers and Brisbane we dis- 
cover other qualities than clear words and brief sentences that 
presumably are related to readability. These writers are inter- 
preters of the news. Their field is the universe and all that is in 
it. They present their subjects briefly, directly, and vividly. 
Their style is simple and unpretentious; their tone, informal and 
personal How much each of these qualities contributes to mak- 
ing their writing readable, we cannot say* For one reader sim- 

a Alfred S. Lewerenz, "Vocabulary Grade-Placement of Typical Newspaper Con- 
tent/' Lot dngelts Educational Research Bulletin, X (September, 19,30), 4-6. 



HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 271 

plicity of expression may be paramount in making the material 
readable. For another, simplicity may be of less consequence 
than the concreteness of the story. For still another, it may 
be the subtle force of these writers that makes what they write 
readable. There is apparently need for research concerning com- 
munication of thought through print as there is concerning 
communication by radio or by any other medium, to discover 
the qualities most useful in reaching different classes of audi- 
ences. 

If, for example, the format of a book adds to readability, we 
need to know further the size of book, the color and quality of 
its binding, the number of pages, and other features most de- 
sired by different classes of readers. Undoubtedly the format of 
Les Miserable*, Silas Marner, and Robinson Crusoe (adapted) 
makes them far more readable for adults of limited reading 
ability than they were originally. 

Writers and publishers need to inquire further concerning the 
size of type and the kind of illustration preferred by different 
readers. If organization contributes to readability, how do dif- 
ferent classes of readers want a book organized? Are paragraph 
headings desirable at Area B, let us say, and not at Area D ? Do 
footnotes confuse the reader of materials at Area A, but not the 
more able reader of materials at Area D ? From the point of view 
of content, what theme is of greatest interest to different read- 
ers? Is the general topic better suited to one class than to an- 
other? Should a theme be defined more narrowing for readers 
of books at Area A? What is the nature of the concepts that 
can be comprehended by readers who are limited to Areas A 
and B? 

In regard to style, the writer should ask such questions as: 
What class of reader finds realism pleasing and phantasy baf- 
fling? Is narration more readable at one level than is description ? 
How far does a personal, informal style improve readability for 
particular readers? What structural elements interfere with ease 
of reading? What kind of vocabulary is most readable at a par- 
ticular level ? To what degree are length and form of sentence 



272 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

related to ease,, and hence to readability for different classes of 
readers ? 

Some of these questions and others of a similar sort have been 
investigated in the field of children's reading with the result that 
materials for children show marked improvement in readability. 
If they can be answered with the same or with a greater degree 
of definiteness in the field of adult reading, it seems reasonable 
to anticipate two major outcomes: one, the formulation of prin- 
ciples of readable writing for use in preparing books for differ- 
ent kinds of adult readers; and the other, the ultimate develop- 
ment of standards by means of which existing books may be 
judged readable. 

WHAT CONTRIBUTIONS HAVE SCIENTIFIC STUDIES 

MADE TO THE PROBLEM OF PREPARING 

READABLE MATERIALS? 

For many years the fact has been recognized that books for 
children must be adapted to successive reading levels. Publish- 
ers of juvenile books, especially textbooks, have been striving 
to create educational and recreational material suited to the 
needs and interests of children of various ages. Previous to the 
development of scientific techniques in 1910, it was difficult to 
determine objectively when a book was appropriate for children 
at a particular age- or grade-level. Subjective opinion dominat- 
ed. Publishers and authors largely felt their way along* 

Gradually objective evidence has accumulated with respect 
to the reading attainment which may be regarded as normal at 
each grade-level, the vocabulary usage and other language hab- 
its of children of different ages, and the reading interests and 
preferences which characterize successive stages of child de- 
velopment* Concerning reading material, evidence is now avail- 
able relative to several fundamental aspects. Among these are 
the color, size, and general appearance of a book which children 
of certain ages find most attractive; the kind of illustrations 
which appeals to them; the length and kind of sentence and the 
extent of vocabulary best fitted to their successive stages of 



HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 273 

progress; and the size of type which they find most readable at 
different grade levels. 

With these data at hand, writers and publishers are producing 
increasingly more readable textbooks and supplementary books 
for children's use in the classroom. Much is still to be desired 
in making the general trade book readable for children at dif- 
ferent stages of reading progress* 

Considerably less has been accomplished in the grading of 
reading material for adults. The reasons are many. The most 
important, perhaps, is that there has been a certain apathy 
toward adult reading. If a person reached maturity without 
having learned to read, the fact was recognized, but practically 
nothing was done about it. If he could read but didn't read, it 
was because he "never cared for reading" or "never had time to 
read," or "never could find anything he wanted to read." These 
pseudo reasons settled the matter. 

During the past few years public attitude has changed. We 
have begun to examine the character of adult reading and to 
inq\iire concerning the facts related to it. Organized attempts 
at adult education and self-directed efforts toward the same end 
have opened up new opportunities for the scientific study of the 
subject. Barriers to investigation increasingly diminish as we 
become accustomed to fact-finding techniques. Most of us will- 
ingly admit our reading tastes and preferences and the nature 
of our reading habits, for we know that the information we give 
will be lost in the composite responses of thousands of other 
persons. 

Some of the facts now available pertain to the reading inter- 
ests and habits of adults. Others relate to adult reading materi- 
al to its vocabulary "burden" and to other elements now rec- 
ognized as indexes of ease or difficulty. Still others present a 
graphic picture of the problems and processes of book publica- 
tion. It is through the utilization of all these outcomes of scien- 
tific research that writers and publishers will be able to prepare 
a greater number of readable books for different classes of read- 
ers. A brief summary of important studies and their implica- 



274 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

tions for writers and publishers is given in the sections that 
follow. 

WHAT HAS BEEN DISCOVERED ABOUT THE READING 
INTERESTS AND HABITS OF ADULTS? 

Reference has been made earlier to the initial report by Gray 
and Monroe on the reading interests and habits of adults. 4 This 
study has contributed to an understanding of such topics as the 
status of reading in American life, the amount and character of 
material read, the interests and motives of adult readers, the 
influences that affect the development of reading interests and 
motives, and the importance of establishing permanent reading 
habits early. Inasmuch as these facts are broad and general, 
their chief value to publishers is to emphasize that more analyt- 
ical studies must be made if books are to serve the varied needs 
and purposes of a wide range of readers. 

One aspect of the entire problem of adult reading reported by 
Gray and Monroe pertains to interests of adult readers. Ob- 
viously, what people want to read about is something which 
publishers should know. Much information is now provided by 
Waples and Tyler, who have made a detailed study of the 
problem. 5 They have compiled group scores to be used in iden- 
tifying the groups most interested in a given subject of non- 
fiction* 

Suppose a publisher plans to produce a book on foreign trade. 
What groups may he expect to interest? The evidence from 
Waples' study shows that prisoners, farmers, factory girls, and 
college students will have little or no interest in it. High-school 
teachers, telephone operators, commercial students, postal 
clerks, and others will evidence average interest in it. But no 
group will be highly interested. 6 This does not mean that these 
groups will not read the book, for Waples has discovered that 

* William S. Gray and Ruth Monroe, The Reading Interest* and ff obits of Adults. 
New York: Macmillan Co., 1929. Pp. 305* 

* Douglas Waples and Ralph W. Tyler, What People Want to Read About* Chicago; 
University of Chicago Press, 1931. Pp. 31 a. 



HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 275 

the correlation between what one wants to read and what one 
actually reads, although positive, is not significant. 7 What the 
evidence does mean is that publishers cannot expect the same 
degree of interest in a book on foreign trade as in one on prices 
and cost of living, let us say. This latter topic, according to 
Waples and Tyler, is one of more general interest for adult read- 
ing. Hence, it stands a greater chance of being read. 

VOCABULARY NEEDS AND READABLE WRITING 

Notable contributions to the intricate problem of readability 
are found in standard vocabulary-lists which are the products 
of scientific investigation. The Thorndike list of 10,000 words, 
published in 1921, was the first contribution of value to writers 
and publishers in determining the frequency and importance of 
words in printed material. 8 

In compiling this list and his later one of 20,000 words, 9 
Thorndike has made two assumptions. The first is that his ma- 
terials from which words are selected are representative. The 
second is that the most frequent words are the most important. 
Although these assumptions have been frequently challenged, 
much evidence has been found to support them. For example, 
the most frequent thousand words in Thorndike's list have a 
high frequency of occurrence in all types of material, both 
literary and scientific. 10 The conclusion seems warranted that 
adult reading necessitates familiarity with at least the first 
thousand words on his list, but that writers and publishers can 
presumably place less confidence in the importance of words 
classified beyond the first thousand. 

There is a tendency to compile basic vocabulary lists for the 

i Douglas Waples, "The Relation of Subject Interests to Actual Reading/' Library 
Quarterly, II (January, 1932), 42-70. 

8 E. L. Thorndike, The Teachers 1 Word Book. New York: Teachers College, Colum- 
bia University, 1921. 

9 E. L. Thorndike, The Teachers' Word Book of 20,000 Words. New York: Teachers 
College, Columbia University, 1931. 

10 Edgar Dale, "Evaluating Thorndike's Word List," Educational Research Bulletin 
(Ohio State University), X (November 25, 1931), 451-57. 



276 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

purpose of modifying the vocabulary difficulties of adults who 
are either learning or who have just learned to read. Some of 
these lists have special application to reading materials for 
foreign-born adults. 

Cornell has prepared a tentative list of 2,27 words as a begin- 
ning reading vocabulary for such persons, with special reference 
to those who cannot read in any language." The list is composed 
of 164 words common to five textbooks for adults and to the 
first 500 words either of the Thorndike or the Gates list;" 25 
words in the first 100 of Thorndike and Gates not found in the 
five texts; 16 words that seem necessary to complete concepts, 
even though they do not appear in either of the first two classes; 
and 22 street signs. Cornell intended that her list be used not 
only to provide a basic vocabulary for beginning reading but 
also to furnish a basis for classification of adults for early in- 
struction in reading. In preparing first lessons in reading for 
foreign-born adults learning to read English, the list seems to 
promise valuable help. 

Swenson's more recent list of 300 English words has been pre- 
pared with the view of formulating a minimum vocabulary for 
foreigners learning to speak English. 13 According to the findings 
of the Language Research Committee, who co-operated in its 
compilation, the 300 words are all a foreigner needs in asking 
for the things necessary for existence. Frequently this list is 
used also in teaching foreigners to read. In such instances, its 
adequacy is open to question* Three hundred words can hardly 
give an understanding of the printed information found in an 
English-speaking community. A longer list seems essential to 
carry the mere beginning of English usage to mastery in either 
speaking or writing. Such a list known as "Swenson's 900 

Ethel Cornell, A Beginning Reading Vocabulary for Foreign-born Adults with Special 
Reference to Those Who Cannot Read in Any Language. University of the State of New 
York Bulletin, No, 948 (Albany, New York: University of the State of New York, 
*93)> P- 24, 

M Arthur L Gates, A Reading Vocabulary for the Primary Grades, New York: Teach- 
ers College, Columbia University, 1926, Pp. 24. 

Elaine Swenson, "Swenson's 300 Words/* New York Times> November 5, 1933. 



HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 277 

Words" is being used in a project described earlier, which aims 
to print the news of the week so that beginning readers may 
read it understandingly. 

A more extensive word-list than either of the preceding two 
has been prepared by Rejall. 14 This list includes 4,000 words 
which every citizen and voter should know. The complete vo- 
cabulary is divided into an elementary list of 1,000 words, an 
intermediate list of 1,500 words, and an advanced list of 1,500 
words. These sub-lists are primarily for the use of teachers in 
selecting the essential words to be taught in progressive order. 
Word recognition in silent reading rather than oral pronuncia- 
tion is the basis for testing a foreign student's knowledge of 
words in the list. Writers of textbooks for use in Americaniza- 
tion classes frequently aim to utilize the 4,000 words in this 
list. 

From his work among Oriental students of English, Faucett 
has come to regard about 1,500 words as the minimum vocabu- 
lary for reading and understanding. 15 They are the "wide range" 
words which comprise almost all the form-words needed in 
normal and modern English prose. Stated in another way, they 
are the indispensable and essential words which together make 
up over 75 per cent of the word-occurrences in normal English 
and constitute its great linguistic framework. Beyond this 
framework are the "narrow-range" words, that is, the useful and 
special words whose word-value make them neither indispensa- 
ble nor essential. 

This word-list is intended, according to its compilers, to be 
"useful to those interested in establishing the minimum vocabu- 
lary to be incorporated in all series of readers, in fixing a graded 
vocabulary scale for supplementary readers, in furnishing ex- 
aminers and school inspectors with a measuring rod, in helping 
teachers and students to develop a sense of word-values, and in 

*4 Alfred E. Rejall, "Reading Vocabularies," Thirty and One Reading Tests Jor Voters 
and Citizenship (New York: Noble & Noble, 1926), pp. 49-69. 

** Lawrence Faucett and Itsu Maki, A Study of English Word-Values Statistically 
Determined from the Latest Extensive Word-Counts, Tokyo, Japan; Matsumura San- 
shodo, 1932. Pp. 252. 



278 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

making possible standardized tests." 16 Although an arbitrary 
fixing of the limit of narrow-range words may inflict an injustice 
on writers of textbooks and of general trade books for new 
literates, yet the minimum use of such words and the more ex- 
tensive use of wide-range words would seemingly produce a 
more readable book than is possible by indifference to word- 
values, 

Ogden's Basic English vocabulary aims to meet the interna- 
tional need at two different stages, 17 One is the stage of ordi- 
nary communication which Ogden claims may be achieved in 
idiomatic English through the use of 850 basic words and 124 
international words. The other is the more advanced stage of 
scientific internationalism, achieved by means of the 850 basic 
words, 300 international words, an additional TOO words for 
general science, and 50 more for any particular science. A great 
economy is claimed in learning a number of phrases composed 
of the same few words arranged in a different order over learning 
a number of different words. For this reason it appears that the 
foreign-born adult will be less handicapped by difficulties of 
vocabulary in reading basic material than in reading other types 
of materials provided that he has mastered the basic words. 
Actually, however, such is not the case. As critics have pointed 
out, there are "stretchings" and shifts of meaning which a read- 
er must acquire if he is to understand basic materials. 18 And 
these stretchings involve the same or about the same amount of 
learning effort as new words* 

The few translations into basic English now available have 
been made for two purposes. One is to furnish practice for the 
learner of the new language. With this purpose we arc not 
greatly concerned here. The other is to experiment in the writ- 

*/Mf.,p. 8. 

w C K, Qgden> Basic English. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trobner & Co.> 1931. 
Pp. 96. 



11 Michael P. West, E* Swenson, and Others, A Critical Examination of Basle JKn^ 
lish, Bulletin No* a of the Department of Educational Research* Ontario College of Edu- 
cation, University of Toronto. Toronto*, University of Toronto Presa, 1934* Pp, $3, 



HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 279 

ing of books in an abbreviated language. 19 No claims are made 
for literary excellence of translations into basic English beyond 
what the originator of the language ascribes "to the rigid econ- 
omy of words, which may be held by some to present a whole- 
some antidote to the prevalent verbosity/* How much the prac- 
tice of so rigid an economy, if such there is, may destroy the 
pleasure of a book and make it less readable has not yet been 
ascertained. 

Since the 850 basic words are designed to furnish the widest 
possible range of substitutes for other words, together with a 
minimum inventory of common objects, they arc not neces- 
sarily short words, nor are they "easy" words as that term has 
been defined in the present study. Furthermore, inasmuch as 
translators of basic English are concerned primarily with the 
usage of a simplified language, their use of other structural ele- 
ments related to difficulty or ease of reading is apparently more 
a matter of chance than intention. Table LXXX V, on page 343, 
shows that Carl and Anna ranks in difficulty at Area B. This is 
the area of difficulty of reading materials which persons of 
fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade reading ability normally can read 
with ease and understanding. Other basic translations, however, 
have been found to rank at higher areas of difficulty. It appears, 
therefore, that although basic English as a literary medium 
may produce easy reading, the level of difficulty is not the same 
for all translations. 

An examination of the various vocabulary-lists just described 
shows that they do not agree. Some are short. Others are long, 
In one case the list 5s derived from an analysis of general read- 
ing. In another it is compiled from an analysis of such practical 
sources as political and historical documents and papers, liter- 
ary requirements of certain states, and reports from teachers 
of adult classes concerning vocabulary needs of their pupils* In 
some cases> words common to two lists arc designed to meet 

'* C. K, Ogdcn, "Basic English * an International Language," Ntw Era, Vol. XIV, 
No, i (Jftnu*ry 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

both conversational and reading needs. Others are intended pri- 
marily to provide a basic reading vocabulary. 

Which list or lists, then, is a writer or a publisher to use? And 
how shall he use them? The answer to the first question is de- 
termined by the audience he means to serve. Is it the foreign- 
born adult who cannot read in any language? Or is it the for- 
eigner who can read in his native language and who is learning 
to read English? Or, again, is it the one who is learning to read 
and speak English simultaneously? Is it the native-born adult 
who is just learning to read? Or is it the reader who is improving 
his reading ability? Is it the Oriental student of English? For 
all these types of reading audience, the first few hundred words 
in the Thorndike list are useful, since they are common to all 
reading needs. For a specific reading audience, suitable words 
may be determined by reference to other lists. It is probable 
that any carefully prepared list represents a considerable ad- 
vance over the judgment of an individual author or publisher 
regarding the importance of a word. 

With respect to the second question, it seems reasonable to 
believe that material will be generally more readable for a par- 
ticular group if the vocabulary is guided by the use of the most 
suitable list. Teachers of adults generally take the position that 
if basic lists were supplemented by words common to the adult 
experiences of particular groups, their usefulness would be ex- 
tended. Further research is needed to determine what words 
represent adult motives, attitudes, and activities common to 
different racial and sectional, occupational and cultural groups?. 
When adult word-lists of this sort are prepared, we shall prob- 
ably re-define "easy" and "hard" words on the basis of their 
familiarity for adults as measured by adult experience* 

Vocabulary-lists, then, represent an advance step in making 
books more readable for adults of limited reading experience. 
But vocabulary diversity 5s only one element related to diffi- 
culty of reading, and hence to readability. And attention to one 
element is not enough. We may restrict our writing vocabulary 
and still produce material that presents obstacles to the reader. 
The words may be difficult because they are long or unfamiliar* 



HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 281 

The difficulty may lie in the use of long and involved sentences, 
frequent prepositional phrases, figures of speech, and other in- 
dexes of difficulty. It may be influenced by an absence of easy 
words, personal pronouns, short and simple sentences, and other 
indicators of ease. Or, again, it may lie entirely outside the 
realm of structural difficulty in some distracting aspect of con- 
tent, format, style, or organization. 

That significant differences in difficulty may exist among ma- 
terials having a common vocabulary is shown by the selections 
which follow. These paragraphs have been adapted from Swiss 
Family Robinson by Michael West, whose simplifications prob- 
ably arc known to all teachers of adults. The writing of these 
paragraphs was motivated by an examination of the findings of 
this study presented in earlier chapters. After such an examina- 
tion, West generously volunteered to prove that something more 
than a limited vocabulary is necessary to produce very simple 
writing, and hence very easy reading. 

In each selection West has restricted the vocabulary to 133 
different easy words. The total number of words in the three 
selections is approximately identical- 293, a88, and 293 words, 
respectively. A comparison of the predicted indexes of diffi- 
culty shows that although all selections may be classified as 
"very easy/ 1 Selection B is significantly more difficult than Se- 
lection A, and Selection C more difficult than Selection B. Had 
the vocabulary been held constant, yet been made to include 
harder words, the same variations in difficulty would have clas- 
sified the selections into different areas of difficulty* While at- 
tention to vocabulary, then, may produce easy reading, greater 
case is attained by taking other significant elements into ac- 
count. 

I LOVE LOBSTER 

SELECTION A 

(Predicted score a. 10) 

The two tubs were in the water. The tubs were near our boat. I wanted to 
get them onto the land. I tried* I found that I could not do it. The bank waa 
too steep. I could not get the tubs up the steep bank. So I set out to find a 
better place* Jutt aa I set out I heard a cry* Jack wa crying out for help* 



28o WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

both conversational and reading needs. Others are intended pri- 
marily to provide a basic reading vocabulary. 

Which list or lists, then, is a writer or a publisher to use? And 
how shall he use them? The answer to the first question is de- 
termined by the audience he means to serve. Is it the foreign- 
born adult who cannot read in any language? Or is it the for- 
eigner who can read in his native language and who is learning 
to read English? Or, again, is it the one who is learning to read 
and speak English simultaneously? Is it the native-born adult 
who is just learning to read ? Or is it the reader who is improving 
his reading ability? Is it the Oriental student of English? For 
all these types of reading audience, the first few hundred words 
in the Thorndike list are useful, since they are common to all 
reading needs. For a specific reading audience, suitable words 
may be determined by reference to other lists. It is probable 
that any carefully prepared list represents a considerable ad- 
vance over the judgment of an individual author or publisher 
regarding the importance of a word. 

With respect to the second question, it seems reasonable to 
believe that material will be generally more readable for a par- 
ticular group if the vocabulary is guided by the use of the most 
suitable list. Teachers of adults generally take the position that 
if basic lists were supplemented by words common to the adult 
experiences of particular groups, their usefulness would be ex- 
tended. Further research is needed to determine what words 
represent adult motives, attitudes, and activities common to 
different racial and sectional, occupational and cultural groups. 
When adult word-lists of this sort are prepared, we shall prob- 
ably re-define "easy" and "hard" words on the basis of their 
familiarity for adults as measured by adult experience. 

Vocabulary-lists, then, represent an advance step in making 
books more readable for adults of limited reading experience. 
But vocabulary diversity is only one element related to diffi- 
culty of reading, and hence to readability. And attention to one 
element is not enough. We may restrict our writing vocabulary 
and still produce material that presents obstacles to the reader. 
The words may be difficult because they are long or unfamiliar. 



HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 281 

The difficulty may lie in the use of long and involved sentences, 
frequent prepositional phrases, figures of speech, and other in- 
dexes of difficulty. It may be influenced by an absence of easy 
words, personal pronouns, short and simple sentences, and other 
indicators of ease. Or 5 again, it may lie entirely outside the 
realm of structural difficulty in some distracting aspect of con- 
tent, format, style, or organization. 

That significant differences in difficulty may exist among ma- 
terials having a common vocabulary is shown by the selections 
which follow. These paragraphs have been adapted from Swiss 
Family Robinson by Michael West, whose simplifications prob- 
ably are known to all teachers of adults. The writing of these 
paragraphs was motivated by an examination of the findings of 
this study presented in earlier chapters. After such an examina- 
tion, West generously volunteered to prove that something more 
than a limited vocabulary is necessary to produce very simple 
writing, and hence very easy reading. 

In each selection West has restricted the vocabulary to 133 
different easy words. The total number of words in the three 
selections is approximately identical 293, 288, and 293 words, 
respectively. A comparison of the predicted indexes of diffi- 
culty shows that although all selections may be classified as 
"very easy," Selection B is significantly more difficult than Se- 
lection A, and Selection C more difficult than Selection B. Had 
the vocabulary been held constant, yet been made to include 
harder words, the same variations in difficulty would have clas- 
sified the selections into different areas of difficulty. While at- 
tention to vocabulary, then, may produce easy reading, greater 
ease is attained by taking other significant elements into ac- 
count. 

I LOVE LOBSTER 

SELECTION A 

(Predicted score 2.10) 

The two tubs were in the water. The tubs were near our boat. I wanted to 
get them onto the land. I tried- I found that I could not do it. The bank was 
too steep. I could not get the tubs up the steep bank. So I set out to find a 
better place. Just as I set out I heard a cry. Jack was crying out for help. 



282 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

"Help!" "Help!" he cried. He might be in some danger! He was not far 
away from me. I took my axe. I ran towards him. Jack was standing in a 
deep pool. He was crying out in fear. When I came nearer I saw why he was 
crying out. A big lobster had caught hold of his leg. He was very frightened 
at it. He kicked. The lobster held on. He kicked. The lobster still held. I 
went into the water. I held the lobster by the back. I pulled. The lobster let 
go. We brought the lobster to land. Jack was soon quite happy again. He 
said, "Let us take the lobster to mother." He caught the lobster in his hands. 
But the lobster hit him. It hit him with its tail. He threw the lobster down 
on the ground because he was angry. He hit the lobster with a big stone. I 
became sad. I said, "You are acting like a foolish little child. This lobster has 
done harm to you. So it is your enemy. So you have hit it. You want to do 
harm to it. This is a show of anger. Do not be angry with your enemies. Do 
not do harm to those who do harm to you. You should do good to them. 
Love your enemies," 

SELECTION B 

(Predicted score 1.93) 

The two tubs were in the water near our boat. I wanted to get them onto 
the land. I tried to do this, but could not, for the bank was too steep. I could 
not get the tubs to land so I set out to find a better place that was not too 
steep. Just as I set out, I heard Jack cry out for help. He might be in 
some danger! I took my axe and ran towards him. He was not far away 
from me. I found him standing in a deep pool of water crying out in fear. 
When I came nearer to him I saw that a big lobster had caught hold of his 
leg. He was very frightened. He kicked and kicked but the lobster still held 
on. I went into the water, and took the lobster by its back, and pulled. It let 
go, and we brought it to land. Jack was soon quite happy again and wanted 
to take the lobster to his mother. ''Let us take it to mother," he said. He 
caught it in his hands, and it hit him with its tail. He threw it down on the 
ground in anger and hit it with a big stone. I became sad at this show of 
anger. "You are acting like a foolish little child, Jack," said I. "You are 
angry with the lobster and have hit it, and want to do harm to it. Do not be 
angry with your enemies and try to harm them. Do good to those who do 
harm to you. You should love your enemies." 

SELECTION C 

(Predicted score 1.69) 

I wanted to get the two tubs that were in the water near our boat onto the 
land; but when I tried to do this I found that the bank was too steep so that I 
could not get the tubs to land, but had to set out to find a better place. Just as 
I set out to find it I heard a cry for help from Jack who was not far away, and, 
taking my axe, ran towards him fearing he might be in some danger. As I 
went I saw that he was standing in a deep pool, and, as I came nearer, I saw 
why he was crying out to me in fear. A big lobster had caught hold of his leg. 
Being very frightened he kicked, but kick as he might the lobster still held on. 



HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 283 

Running into the water, and taking the lobster by its back, I pulled it away. 
When it let go we brought it to land. As soon as Jack became quite happy 
again, he said that he wanted to take the lobster to show to his mother, but, 
when he caught it in his hands, he was hit by the angry lobster's tail, and be- 
came so angry that he threw the lobster down on the ground and hit it with a 
big stone. Being sad at this show of anger, "Jack," said I, "you are acting 
like a foolish little child. Being angry with the lobster because it has done 
harm to you, you hit it so as to do harm to it. I have said to you, have I not, 
that we should do good to those who do harm to us and should not harm 
them ? We should love our enemies." 

ELEMENTS OF DIFFICULTY AND THEIR CONTRIBUTION 
TO READABLE WRITING 

If, as Cheney has said, difficult books, after school as well as 
in school, are a prime unmaker of readers largely because 
"good" books are too complex for the reading level of the largest 
audience, then it seems reasonable to assume that readers would 
not be "unmade" could they find good material written in a 
manner they could understand. And we may further assume 
that such material will be written when we have scientific infor- 
mation regarding what qualities make a book easy or difficult. 
Information of this sort is being rapidly extended to include 
other elements of expression than vocabulary. 

In Russia psychologists have been working on the problem 
of discovering a medium of communication that will reach the 
uneducated peasantry. For example, they have found that as a 
means of mass influence the "humoristic" safety poster that is 
characteristic of America is better understood and has greater 
influence than the "bloody" type predominating in Russia. 20 
Consequently, the posters now being produced are adopting the 
former aspect. Psychologists have taken stenograms in meet- 
ings of peasants, workers, and soldiers and compared them with 
stenograms of speeches of educated persons. They find that vo- 
cabulary and grammatical structure of the sentences differ ac- 
cording to the training of the speaker. The more educated he 
is, the greater the percentage of nouns in his speech and the 
smaller the frequency of verbs. Uneducated persons use sen- 

ao Ninth International Congress of Psychology Proceedings and Papers (Princeton, 
New Jersey: Psychological Review Co., 1929), pp. 404-6. 



284 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

tences that are longer but poorer in thought quality. These 
findings have led to experimentation in increasing the intelligi- 
bility of the juridic laws for peasants. From 40 to 90 per cent 
increase has been secured merely by substituting verbs for many 
nouns and by expressing the laws in sentences which contain 
relatively few new ideas. 

Reference has been made in an earlier chapter to the study of 
Dale and Tyler concerning the elements of difficulty in techni- 
cal reading matter. They have limited their study to one topic, 
personal health, which is known to hold high interest for adults. 
Their findings show that three elements are the best indicators 
of the difficulty which adults of limited reading ability will meet 
in reading material of this nature. These elements are: number 
of different technical words, number of different hard, non- 
technical words, and number of indeterminate clauses. By re- 
ducing the occurrence of these elements in a given selection an 
author will make the material more comprehensible for readers 
of lesser ability. 

In the present study we have assumed that to make a book 
easy to read from the point of view of structural elements is a 
long step in the direction of making it readable. We have ac- 
cordingly identified elements that are related to difficulty for 
the general adult reader and for the reader of lesser ability. The 
exact relationship of these elements to difficulty has been pre- 
sented in chapter iv. 

For the latter group, the reader of lesser ability, the following 
elements in reading material indicate difficulty. 

1. Number of words not known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade pupils 

2. Number of different hard words 

3. Average sentence-length in syllables 

4. Average sentence-length in words 

5. Percentage of different words 

6. Percentage of polysyllables 

7. Percentage of different words not known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade 
pupils 

8. Maximum syllabic sentence-length 

9. Minimum syllabic sentence-length 
10. Number of figures of speech 



HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 285 

11. Number of prepositional phrases 

12. Number of different words 

13. Number of / words 

14. Range of syllabic sentence -length 

15. Number of infinitive and prepositional phrases 

1 6. Percentage of content words 

17. Number of asides 

1 8. Percentage of bisyllables 

19. Number of clauses introduced by subordinate conjunctions 

20. Number of e words 

21. Percentage of complex sentences 

22. Number of b words 

23. Number of clauses introduced by conjunctive adverbs 

24. Percentage of compound and compound-complex sentences 

The order of arrangement of the foregoing elements indicates 
their worth as indexes of difficulty. That is to say, the number 
of words in a book not known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade pupils 
is a better index of its difficulty than the percentage of com- 
pound and compound-complex sentences which it contains. The 
first fifteen elements are the only indicators of difficulty that are 
significant from a statistical point of view. We are hardly justi- 
fied, however, in ignoring the other elements. The very fact 
that they are related to difficulty at all is evidence that complex 
sentences, asides, and bisyllables, for example, are indexes of 
difficulty of material containing them. 

If it is advantageous to know the elements which indicate 
difficulty, it is equally advantageous to know the ones indicative 
of ease. Such elements are: 

1. Percentage of easy words 

2. Number of easy words 

3. Percentage of monosyllables 

4. Number of personal pronouns 

5. Number of explicit sentences 

6. Number of sentences per paragraph 

7. Number of third-person pronouns 

8. Number of infinitive phrases 

9. Number of simple sentences 

10. Number of complex sentences 

11. Number of clauses introduced by relative pronouns 

12. Percentage of structural words 

13. Number of h words 

14. Number of compound-complex sentences 



286 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

1 5. Number of w words 

1 6. Number of first-person pronouns 

17. Percentage of simple sentences 

1 8. Number of compound and compound-complex sentences 

19. Total number of words per paragraph 

20. Percentage of compound-complex sentences 

What do these lists of elements mean to the writer or the 
publisher? In a general way we may say that an increase in the 
occurrence of elements in the first list increases the difficulty of 
a selection, whereas an increase of elements in the second list 
decreases the difficulty. In other words, if we look for indexes 
of ease in the adapted Robinson Crusoe, we find that its sen- 
tences are shorter, simpler, and more explicit; and its words 
shorter, easier, more familiar, and less diversified than in the 
original text. 

The author, therefore, who wants to reach the widest possible 
audience will write simply. He will plan how he can express his 
ideas so as to reduce complexity. But will such planning tend 
to make a book of poorer quality? Will it reduce the freshness 
and spontaneity of the author's style? Will it kill the art of 
writing? If it does, we may ask further, need it do so? Does not 
the author plan his plot? Do not the actions, words, even the 
thoughts of his characters follow a pattern ? Is not the organiza- 
tion of a book so planned that chapter divisions mark shifts of 
time and place? Even the most carefully planned book may be 
the most artistic and the most spontaneous. 

To suggest, then, that writers plan to utilize words and 
phrases that will be understood by the greatest possible audi- 
ence is merely to add one more aspect to the planning which 
they do anyway. The hope of the author who writes for a re- 
stricted audience lies in knowing the standards of that audience 
in terms of needs and interests. Such standards have not yet 
been developed and perhaps never can be for all aspects of read- 
ability. 

For those aspects that are objectively measurable, however, 
there seems reason to believe that fairly reliable standards can 
be developed. A beginning has been made in this direction for 



HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 287 

structural elements related to difficulty, as shown in Table 
LXV. The tentative standards presented in this table are given 
in terms of the range of occurrence, the median occurrence, and 
variation in occurrence of five elements in 350 books classified 
at Areas A, B, C, D, and E. They were derived by distributing 
the average occurrence of each element in all books classified at 
each of the various levels. Data in the table are read as follows: 
the average number of different hard words per 100 ranges from 
21.4 to 6.0 for "very easy" books; from 25.5 to 12.0 for "easy" 
books; from 33.2 to 12.0 for "average" books; from 36.2 to 
20.6 for "difficult" books; and from 37.0 to 19.3 for "very diffi- 
cult" books. The median percentage of different hard words 
characterizing the five areas of difficulty is 12.3, 20.3, 24.3, 
28,63 and 31.1. Three-fourths of all material at Areas A, B, 
C, D, and E contain a percentage of different hard words be- 
low 16.6, 21.9, 26.5, 30.9, and 33.7, respectively, while one- 
fourth contains a percentage below 8.7, 16.9, 22.1, 26.5, and 
28.2. Variations in the occurrence of other elements are read 
similarly. 

Although variations in the occurrence of different elements 
are not always sharply defined, they do indicate definite trends, 
which are shown graphically by Figures 27-31. The median for 
each element shows a relatively consistent gradation from one 
area to the next. There is an increase in number of different 
hard words, in length of sentence, in number of different words, 
and in number of prepositional phrases; and a decrease in num- 
ber of personal pronouns. The upper quartile of one area closely 
approximates the lower quartile of the next higher area, indi- 
cating that materials at one extreme of a particular area are not 
significantly different in structural difficulty from materials at 
the opposite extreme of another area. Such a circumstance is in 
accord with gradations in reading ability as shown by standard 
tests. An examination of reading norms for succeeding grades 
shows that although those for fifth and sixth grades, let us say, 
are markedly different, the norm for high fifth and low sixth 
grades differ almost imperceptibly. 



288 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



TABLE LXV 

TENTATIVE STANDARDS FOR USE IN WRITING FOR ADULTS 
OF LIMITED READING ABILITY 





AREAS OF DIFFICULTY 


Very 
Easy 
1.15 to 
2.06 
(10 cases) 


Easy 
.84 to 
1.15 
(70 cases) 


Average 
53 to 

.84 
(i 8 8 cases) 


Difficult 

.22 tO 

.53 

(69 cases) 


Very 
Difficult 
-.26 

tO .22 

(13 cases) 


Number of different hard words 
in a hundred-word paragraph 
Range 


21.4-6.0 
16.6 
12.3 

3.7 

16.8-1.9 

13-5 
11.5 
9.2 

24-^-9.3 

20.8 

14.8 

12.0 

64.6-36.5 

59-7 
54.6 
51.6 

H.3-5.8 
10.7 

8.4 
6. 7 


25.5-12.0 
21.9 
20.3 
16.9 

15.3-1.2 
ii. 6 
8.6 
4-i 

27.1-13.3 

21. 1 
ip.l 
17.7 

7I.I-53.8 
6 7 . 7 
65.7 
61.5 

14.6-8,6 
12. 1 

10,8 

9,6 


33.2-12 
26.5 
24-3 

22.1 

15.5-2.0 
IO.4 
8.2 

5-8 

38.5-13.0 
25.8 

22.8 
20.4 

74.7-58.9 
7O.2 
68.9 
67.5 

15.2-8.4 
I2. 4 

n.8 
10.9 


36.2-20.6 

30-9 
28.6 
26.5 

11.0-3.9 
8.9 
7.0 
5-3 

44.4-20.1 
31.8 
28.5 
25.8 

75.7-65.0 
72.9 
70.8 
69.4 

15.8-10,1 

13-5 
12.7 
12.5 


37-0-I9-3 
33-7 
31-1 

28.2 

12.3-2.6 

8-5 
5,0 
3-8 

74-5-34-1 
42.8 
40.0 
35-5 

73.9-67.0 

7*-3 
71.7 
68,1 

15,8-11.1 
'5-5 
i3>7 
13* 


Upper quartile 


Median 


Lower quartile 


Number of first-, second-, and 
third-person pronouns in a 
hundred-word paragraph 
Range 


Upper quartile 


Median 


Lower quartile 


Average sentence-length in 
words in a hundred-word par- 
agraph 
Range 


Upper quartile 


Median 


Lower quartile 


Percentage of different words m 
a hundred- word paragraph 
Range 


Upper Quartile 


Median 


Lower quartile 


Number of prepositional phrases 
in a hundred-word paragraph 
Range , 


Upper quartile 
Median , 


Lower quartile 





HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 289 

What does Table LXV mean for the writer of adult material? 
In the first place, it gives him a measuring device by means of 



Number 
40 

35 

30 



20 

IS 



U.L. 



Md. 



10 



Q 

5 L.L. 




Area A Area B Area C Area D Area E 

FIG. 27. Occurrence of different hard words in reading materials at successive 
areas of difficulty. 



Number 
20 



U.L. 

Qs 

Md. 

Q. 



L.L, 




Area A Area B Area C Area D Area E 

Fio, 28. Occurrence of personal pronouns in reading materials at successive areas 
of difficulty. 

which he can estimate the difficulty of his writing from the 
point of view of structure without use of the regression equation. 




Area A Area B Area C Area D Area E 



FIG. 29. Average sentence-length in reading materials at successive areas of diffi- 
culty. 



Per Cent 
80 

75 
70 

65 U.L, 
60 & 

55 Md. 
50 ft 

45 

40 



35 




L.L, 

Area A Area B Area C Area D Area E 



FIG. 30. Occurrence of different words in reading materials at successive areas of 
difficulty. 



HOW TO PREPARE READABLE MATERIALS 291 

For example, if in several hundred-word samplings of his ma- 
terial he finds that the occurrence of various structural elements 
approximates their occurrence at Area C, then he has sufficient 
evidence for assuming that his writing presents no more than 
average difficulty, that it ranks with other average books shown 
in Figure 23. 

In the second place, Table LXV offers tentative standards 
which a writer can use as guides in reaching a particular audi- 

Number 




Area A Area B Area C Area D Area E 



FIG. 31. Occurrence of prepositional phrases in reading materials at successive 
areas of difficulty. 

ence. Let us suppose that he wishes to prepare material for 
adults who are just beginning to read that is, material which 
will rank at Area A. According to the standards in the table, he 
should use on the average not more than about 8-1 6 different 
hard words per hundred, 51-60 different words, and 6~io prepo- 
sitional phrases. He should make a presentation so direct that 
the number of personal pronouns will not be fewer than 9-13 
per hundred words. Furthermore, his average length of sentence 
should not exceed ia-ao words. 

How shall a writer set about to meet these standards? He 
may begin by reading materials classified at Area A. They will 
include children's textbooks for grades a and 3, the simplest of 
simplified classics shown in Figure 23, cheap wood-pulp maga- 



292 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

zines materials that will give him a concrete notion of the 
degree of simplicity represented at Area A. When he has caught 
the "feel" of very easy reading, he can then begin to write, 
pausing occasionally to check his work against desired stand- 
ards and to make certain that he is imposing no structural diffi- 
culties on the beginning reader. 

Obviously, this is not the whole task of writing readably even 
for the one class of reader that we have been considering, name- 
ly, the reader of limited ability. There still remain many other 
qualities whose relationship to readability needs to be deter- 
mined for this type of reader. These have been suggested from 
time to time throughout the present report. For other classes 
of readers to write simply may mean making a book unreadable. 
Perhaps it is not simple writing and hence ease in reading that 
makes a book readable for them, but a combination of other 
qualities. What those qualities are needs to be discovered also. 
Again, it must be said that each quality should be isolated in 
turn, studied as objectively as possible, and the findings be or- 
ganized in a way that will aid writers and publishers in provid- 
ing readable materials for all classes of readers. 



APPENDIX A 

The following list was used to discover the trend of opinion among libra- 
rians and others concerning What Makes a Book Readable. A discussion of 
the findings obtained by the use of this list appears in chapter ii. 

AN INVESTIGATION TO DETERMINE FACTORS 
OF READABILITY IN BOOKS 

EXPLANATION OF LIST 

The attached list includes possible factors of readability in books. It has 
been compiled from letters received from librarians, readers' advisers, pub- 
lishers, and other persons interested in adult education in response to an in- 
quiry concerning the factors which in their judgment contribute to the read- 
ability of books. The list is organized into four major categories: (I) Format 
or Mechanical Features; (II) General Features of Organization; (III) Style of 
Expression and Presentation; and (IV) Content. Each major category is di- 
vided into sub-items, designated by Arabic numerals; and each sub-item is ex- 
plained or qualified by a number of factors, suggested by the correspondents 
as being possible factors affecting readability. These are designated a y b, c, 
etc. 

USE OF LIST 

The list is sent to you for use in helping to evaluate the relative influence of 
each category and each sub-item on readability; and in determining what fac- 
tors are important under each sub-item. This step is preliminary to a more 
objective study of their significance. 

METHOD OF SCORING AND CHECKING 

Three columns are set up at the right of each page, designated A, B, C. 
Column A is to be used for checking specific factors; Column B, for evaluating 
sub-items; and Column C, for evaluating the four major categories. 

First step. Examine the complete list of factors and note the sub-items 
and categories into which they have been classified, in order to familiarize 
yourself with the general set-up of the list. You will note that there is direct 
contradiction among some factors, apparent overlapping of others, and close 
similarity among others. This has resulted from including all factors of possi- 
ble readability, suggested by the correspondents. 

Second step. Look over the factors, designated a,b, ,etc., and decide which 
ones, in your judgment, make for readability. Indicate your decision by 
checking such factors (V ) in Column A. If you wish to show that certain fac- 
tors are of special significance, indicate by (V V). Leave blank spaces after 
factors that you believe are insignificant or do not make for readability. Space 



294 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

has been left for additional factors. Please include any that you think have 
been omitted. 

Third step. Consider the total value of the sub-items, I, 2, 3, etc., in each 
major category as equal to 100 points. Look over the sub-items in Category I, 
and evaluate their relative importance in promoting readability. Distribute 
the total value, loo points, among these sub-items to indicate their proportion- 
ate values. Write the values in Column B, opposite each sub-item. Be sure 
that the sum of all values assigned to sub-items i, a, 3, etc., equals 100 points, 
which is the total value of Category I. 

Next 3 do the same thing for Category II; then for Category III, and finally 
for Category IV. In each case, distribute 100 points among their respective 
sub-items, writing in Column B. Each category should total 100 points. 

Fourth step. Now consider the total value of all four Categories, I, II, III, 
IV as equal to 100 points. Decide what proportion of 100 points best repre- 
sents the value of each category in influencing readability. Distribute the 100 
points among the four categories, as your judgment dictates. Write the as- 
signed value in Column C after each category. The sum of the four values 
should total 100 points. 



APPENDIXES 

A LIST OF POSSIBLE FACTORS OF READABILITY IN BOOKS 



295 



B " 



I. FORMAT or MECHANICAL FEATURES 



Size of Book 



Average 



Larger than a textbook 



About 5 by 8 



About 14 am* oy 16 cm. 



f. Light we 



g* Comfortai 



light 
BTe 



h. Not forbidding 



I 2. Number of Pages 



a. Brief 



b.. About 50 pages 



o ., Abouic 7JT pages 



| 3. Quality cf Paper 



Opaque 



b Dull surfaced 



Evan colored 



dTWhite 



e Not white 



f Pleasant to touch 



[ 4. Kind of Type and Printing 



a* Large 



b. Good-eit eel 



e. About 11 pt 



About 12-14 pt> 



Not under 8 



Ola Style 



&- 
ityle 



'4 pte leading^ 



Spacing, liJfca douole typing apaoe 



spaoe 



n. Dull ink 



o* Clear, legible 



296 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



A. I B 



I 5, Length of line 



a. About 2 2/S".-2 5/6" 



b. Not over 5 1/2" 



o 20 pica 



6. Margins 



D Rather vide 



Vide, literal 



Medium 



Adequate 



I 7. General Appearance of Page 



a. Not like textbook 



o, Broken, not compact 



cY Attractive 



8. Binding 



a. Sturdy, durable 



b. Attractive 



9* Illustrations 



a. Some 



Numerous 



For biography and science"" 
" 



Adj 



biography 
cent to t 



ext 



On same paper as text 



Colored 



Captioned 



Of cartoon type 



Wot childish 



Appropriate 



Attractive 



Jffith amps and diagreuns 



II. GENERAL FEATURES OF ORGANIZATION 



| It Title of Book 



a* Striking 



[ 2, Chapter Divisions 



a. pe$oript;ive chapter neadlngs 



b. Running chapter headings 



APPENDIXES 



297 





A 


B C 


3. Paragraph Divisions 








a* Sub-heads 




b. No sub-heads 




o. Sub-heads in bold-faced type 




d. Interesting sub-heads 




a. Not numbered 




f . Not like textbook 












4. Reference Guides 








a. Table or contents 






b. Index with catchy title 




c No index 




d Glossary (not mentioned in text) 




e. No marginal notes 




f . No footnotes 




gf References following text 




~h All references in text proper 




i Appendix for references 




j. Appendix for charts and tables 














III. STYLE OP EXPRESSION AMD PRESENTATION 


1. Vocabulary 






a* Limited 






b. Limited to 1000-1500 words 




e. Easy 




d Not necessarily easy 




e. Easy enough for 13-14 year old child 




f * Not consciously adapted 




g. Simple words 




h. Short words 




i. Popular 




j* Common, familiar 




k Non-technical 




l. Vivid 




m. Anglo-Saxon 




n Vernacular, (even colloquial) 




^o Dynamic 




p Fresh 




q. Specific 






r. Non-claasical 






s* InfonwJ, (noni'-academic) 




t Adult (not childish) 
















2, Sentences 






a. Short 








b* Varied In length 






o. Reasonably short 






d* Concise 






o. Simple 






f Not too involved 





298 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



Without guarded clauses 



h. Concrete 



l-Bhythoical 



Restated in varied ways 



3. Paragraphs 



a. Snort 



D varied in length 



c* Reasonable in. length 



a. Maximum length of I/? page 



e Simple 



f. Sue o met 



Inviting, arresting 



h* Of a sing 
i. Prog res si 



tnought'-unit 



aly continuous 



[ 4. Chapters 



a. Short 



o. Stimulating at beginning 
d. Promising at the end 



5. Attitude of Author 



a. Enthusiastic 



D. inspiratlonair 



c. Moralizing 



d Opt Smi stic 



Humanit arl an 



f. Baotional, seatimental 



6. Method of Presentation 



a* Narrative 



Biographical 



o. Desoriptiv/ 



d. Not descriptive 



Poetic 



f Drattatio 



g* Joumalistio 



7. Style of Presentation 



a. Direct 



Vivid, colorful 



Graphic 



d, Lucia, clear 



e, Chanaiiag 



C. Picture ague 



Concrete 
1. Apt 



APPENDIXES 



199 





A 


B C 




j. Simple 






k* Easy, fluent 




1. Popular 




m* Stimulating 




n. Original 




o* Distinguished 




p, Informal 




q. Light, humorous 




r Convincing 












6- 


Stylistic Devices 








a. Brevity 






b. Omission 1 of non-essentials 




o* Simple plot 




d. Exaggeration 




a. Conversation 




f Questions and answers 




g. Judicious use of questions and answers 




h No questions and answers 




i. Familiar verbal illustration 




j Some repetition 




k* Contrast and comparison 




I* Parables 




m. Omission of allegory 




n. Omission of allusions 




o Omission of symbolism 




p. Omission of abstractions 




q, Accuracy in portrayal 




r. No over-specialization 




s. Appeal within reader's scale 




t Arousal of feeling reaction 




u. Adult approach 




v. Introduction of new elements singly 




vt. Start with familiar 




x Portrayal of own personality 




y. Realism 




e Phantasy 












IV-, CONTEM 


| I* Then* 


1 




&* What people want to read about 






b History (especially of IKS+) 




o* History (not important) 




d f Adventure 




0. Scisncc and invention 




f. Information 




6* People - ^ereonftlities 




h, aucoesslui people 




i* Idea? of people 




j. Not just ideas 




fc. Not thecries 




1 Romance and action 





300 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



m. Travel and business 



. Hiaaan interest 

o Seal or ideal life experience 



p. Interpretation of life experience 



Not analysis of life experience 



r . BEtension of numan experienoe 



s V Opposed to reality 



[a. Mature of Subject Matter 



o. unusual 



c Familiajr 



d. Amusing 



e. Homely 



f Rich, li-re 



Popular 



i* Easy 



Interesting 



k._lfo: 

X. He! 



Ipflil 



n. Purposeful 



I g. Unity of Conteat 



a.. Single phase"" 



b. Kot demanding general knowledge 



APPENDIX B 

Tables LXVI-LXXVII, inclusive, list factors of content, style, format, and 
organization ranked of greatest and least importance to readability by each 
of three groups of judges. From these tables were obtained the common opin- 
ions relative to readability appearing in chapter ii. 

TABLE LXVI 

FACTORS RELATED TO CONTENT RANKED OF GREATEST AND LEAST 
IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY LIBRARIANS 



Factors Ranked in Highest 
Quarter of 47 Factors 



Factors Ranked in Lowest 
Quarter of 47 Factors 



ia Timely subject matter 

i| Theme people and personalities 

im Theme travel and business 

Theme science and invention 

Theme romance and action 

Theme of human interest 

Interesting subject matter 

Theme adventure 

Content not demanding a general 
knowledge 

Theme information 
ip Theme interpretation of life expe- 

rience 
ib Theme history (especially of U.S.) 



le 
i/ 

*i# 
of 

*id 



if 



i< Theme ideas of people 
o.e Homely subject matter 
$a Content a single phase 
2< Easy subject matter 
ik Moral subject matter 
ic Theme history not important 
ij Theme not just ideas 
ik Theme not theories 
u Theme opposed to reality 
it Theme economics 
iq Theme not analysis of life experience 
3* Content that adheres to the stated sub- 
ject 



* Considered of special significance aa indicated on the check-list by ( V \0- 



301 



302 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

TABLE LXVII 

FACTORS RELATED TO CONTENT RANKED OF GREATEST AND LEAST 
IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY PUBLISHERS 



Factors Ranked in Highest 
Quarter of 47 Factors 



Factors Ranked in Lowest 
Quarter of 47 Factors 



id Theme adventure 

iff Theme science and invention 

in Theme of human interest 

la Theme what people want to read 

about 

ig Theme people and personalities 

i/ Theme romance and action 

la Timely subject matter 

a Humanized subject matter 

a/ Interesting subject matter 

a/ Helpful subject matter 

i/ Theme information 
im Theme travel and business 



li Theme ideas of people 
2k Theme not theories 
if Theme self-improvement 
2* Homely subject matter 
ag Popular subject matter 
o.k Moral subject matter 
3c Content with clear, prevailing purpose 
%d Content in careful sequence 
ic Theme history not important 
ij Theme not just ideas 
iq Theme not analysis of human experi- 
ence 
is Theme opposed to reality 



TABLE LXVIII 

FACTORS RELATED TO CONTENT RANKED OF GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE 
TO READABILITY BY OTHERS INTERESTED IN ADULT EDUCATION 



Factors Ranked in Highest 
Quarter of 47 Factors 



Factors Ranked in Lowest 
Quarter of 47 Factors 



*ia Timely subject matter 
im Theme travel and business 
I n Theme of human interest 

*ih Humanized subject matter 
vj Interesting subject matter 
3^ Content not demanding general 
knowledge 

*ig Theme people and personalities 
i/ Theme romance and action 
la Theme what people want to read 
about 

*id Theme adventure 
I h Theme successful people 

*id Purposeful subject matter 



ij Theme not just ideas 
i k Theme not theories 
is Theme opposed to reality 
iq Theme not analysis of human ex- 
perience 

ic Theme history not important 
ly Theme imaginative fiction 
ix Theme religion and reform 
10 Theme health 
iw Theme vocational guidance 
is Theme understanding the times 
lu Theme understanding one's self 
3/ Content leading to understanding of 
relationships of parts of general sub- 
jects 



* Considered of special aignificance as indicated on the check-list by (V V)- 



APPENDIXES 



33 



TABLE LXIX 

FACTORS RELATED TO STYLE OF EXPRESSION AND PRESENTATION RANKED OF 
GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY LIBRARIANS 



Factors Ranked in Highest 
Quarter of 1 16 Factors 



Factors Ranked in Lowest 
Quarter of 1 1 6 Factors 



if Adult vocabulary 

8& Use of contrast and comparison 

*yd Lucid, clear presentation 

jr Convincing style 

*i/ Sentences not too involved 

8w Start with familiar 

8j Appeal within reader's scale 

3*r Paragraphs of reasonable length 

*5< Enthusiastic attitude of author 

Su Adult approach 

*ik Non-technical vocabulary 

*4^ Chapters stimulating at beginning 

2, Sentences varied in length 

ya Direct presentation 

8y Accuracy in portrayal 

1 2 Vivid vocabulary 

ij- Informal vocabulary 

%h Paragraphs of a single thought-unit 

4*/ Chapters promising at end 

6a Narrative style 

6c Descriptive style 

jg Entertaining style 

17 Common, familiar vocabulary 

i Specific vocabulary 

jm Stimulating style 

8^ Conversation 

2c Reasonably short sentences 

3^ Paragraphs varied in length 

4^ Clear-cut chapters 



la Limited vocabulary 

i h Short words 

ir Non-classical vocabulary 

70 Distinguished style 

5/ Emotional, sentimental attitude of 
author 

8<r Simple plot 

I m Anglo-Saxon 

i Vernacular (even colloquial) vocabu- 
lary 

6e Poetic style 

7^ Light, humorous style 

8jy Realism 

3* Simple paragraphs 

5jf Truthful, sincere attitude of author 

7<r Charming style 

jf Picturesque style 

8/ Parables 

3/ Succinct paragraphs 

3<z Short paragraphs 

ib Vocabulary limited to 10001,500 
words 

ie Vocabulary easy enough for twelve- 
fourteen-year-old child 

4* Chapters of about 30 pages 

5<r Moralizing attitude of author 

71 Appropriate style of expression 
6^ Appropriate presentation 

5/ Knowledge of subject 

$h Well-balanced attitude of author 

%d Exaggeration 

8/ 1 Questions and answers 

8z Phantasy 



* Considered of tpecial significance as indicated on the check-list by ( VV). 



3<H 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 
TABLE LXX 



FACTORS RELATED TO STYLE OF EXPRESSION AND PRESENTATION RANKED OF 
GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY PUBLISHERS 



Factors Ranked in Highest 
Quarter of 116 Factors 



Factors Ranked in Lowest 
Quarter of 116 Factors 



3 h Paragraphs of a single thought-unit 

is Informal vocabulary 

it Adult vocabulary 

7# Direct presentation 

%q Accuracy in portrayal 

ik Non- technical vocabulary 

i/ Vivid vocabulary 

ib Sentences varied in length 

if Sentences not too involved 

4-c Chapter stimulating at the beginning 

$a Enthusiastic attitude of author 

8 Omission of non- essentials 

8^ Conversation 

8# Adult approach 

See; Start with familiar 

ic Reasonably short sentences 

id Concise sentences 

3^ Paragraphs of reasonable length 

4^ Clear-cut chapters 

j^d Chapters promising at end 

6a Narrative style 

jd Lucid, clear presentation 

8.? Appeal within reader's scale 

if Vocabulary not consciously adapted 

ih Concrete sentences 

3^ Paragraphs varied in length 

44 Short chapters 

5<? Humanitarian attitude of author 

6c Descriptive style 



id Vocabulary not necessarily easy 

le Vocabulary easy enough for twelve- 
fourte en-year-old child 

im Anglo-Saxon 

ib Vocabulary limited to 1,000-1,500 
words 

ih Short words 

ia Short sentences 

$c Moralizing attitude of author 

5/ Emotional, sentimental attitude of au- 
thor 

6d Not descriptive style 

6e Poetic style 

7<? Charming style 

7/ Picturesque style 

7*" Apt style 

7/ Popular style 

jo Distinguished style 

Sd Exaggeration 

8/ Parables 

Br No overspeciaKzation 

8* Portrayal of author's personality 

8z Phantasy 

in Vernacular (even colloquial) vocabu- 
lary 

ir Non-classical vocabulary 

itt Non-technical words explained 

ig Sentences without guarded clauses 

li Rhythmical sentences 

a/ Sentences of varied rhythms 

3^ Simple paragraphs 

$j Objective attitude of author 

7^ Popular style 



APPENDIXES 



35 



TABLE LXXI 

FACTORS RELATED TO STYLE OF EXPRESSION AND PRESENTATION RANKED OF 

GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY OTHERS 

INTERESTED IN ADULT EDUCATION 



Factors Ranked in Highest 
Quarter of 116 Factors 



Factors Ranked in Lowest 
Quarter of 1 16 Factors 



6a Narrative style 

ja Direct presentation 

ik Non-technical vocabulary 

*4C Chapters stimulating at beginning 

6c Descriptive style 

8 Contrast and comparison 

jr Convincing style 

Bu Adult approach 

*yd Lucid, clear representation 

8 Omission of non-essentials 

is Informal vocabulary 

*i/ Adult vocabulary 

4<z Short chapters 

qd Chapters promising at end 

*5 Enthusiastic attitude of author 

jc Graphic presentation 

if Vocabulary not consciously adapted 

ij Common, familiar vocabulary 

2^ Sentences varied in length 

*zf Sentences not too involved 

ih Concrete sentences 

jb Vivid style 

Sw Start with familiar 

a* Simple sentences 

4<J Clear-cut chapters 

Sg Judicious use of questions 

3^ Paragraphs varied in length 

3* Paragraphs progressively continuous 

$b Inspirational attitude of author 



iff Vocabulary easy enough for twelve 
fourteen-year-old child 

i h Short words 

ir Non-classical vocabulary 

2<z Short sentences 

la Limited vocabulary 

ij Popular vocabulary 

7* Apt style 

8# Portrayal of author's personality 

I b Vocabulary limited to 1,000-1,500 
words 

id Vocabulary not necessarily easy 

3^ Paragraph length about one-half page 

3/ Succinct paragraphs 

7/ Picturesque style 

7/ Popular style 

SW Exaggeration 

8/ Parables 

in Vernacular (even colloquial) vocabu- 
lary 

a/ Rhythmical sentences 

6f Poetic style 

8A No questions and answers 

5r Moralizing attitude of author 

Je Charming style 

Jo Distinguished style 

5/ Emotional, sentimental attitude of 
author 

5* Straightforward attitude of author 

5Jfe Author's knowledge of reader 

5/ Author's knowledge of subject 

7/ Natural style 

82 Phantasy 



* Considered of special significance as indicated on the check-list by ( W )> 



306 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

TABLE LXXII 

FACTORS RELATED TO FORMAT RANKED OF GREATEST AND LEAST 
IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY LIBRARIANS 



Factors Ranked in Highest 
Quarter of 90 Factors 


Factors Ranked in Lowest 
Quarter of 90 Factors 


8 Attractive binding 


q/ Book of about 1 50 pages 


9J Appropriate illustrations 


4* Type about 1 1 point 


4k Well-spaced type 


20 Brief book- 


9/ Maps and diagrams 


4/ Type about 12-14 point 


*40 Clear, legible type 


4/ Type spaced like double typing 


7^ Broken page 


5<r Length of line, 20 picas 


7* Attractive page 


8<: Flexible binding 


ib Book of average size 


9<? Illustrations on same paper as text 


if Light-weight book 


9^ Illustrations of cartoon type 


3^ Dull-surfaced paper 


ic Si2e of book larger than a textbook 


402 Black ink 


477 Dull ink 


9</ Illustrations adjacent to text 


9# Illustrations of artistic value 


3 Good quality of paper 


la Small book 


9 Captioned illustrations 


ii Book about ao cm. by 14 cm. 


9& Attractive illustrations 


ih Book of 300-400 pages 


i Book of comfortable size 


4# Large type 


4p Attractive type 


dfd Small type 


8# Sturdy binding 


4r Granjon type 


3* Paper not white 


4S Roman, Old Style 


%c Even-colored paper 


50 Length of line about af "-2|" 


6d Adequate margins 


6/ Well-proportioned margins 


4 Good type 


9777 Illustrations for travel books 


$b Length of line, not over 5 V 


6a Wide, liberal margins 



* Considered of special significance as indicated on the check-list by (V V)- 



APPENDIXES 

TABLE LXXIII 

FACTORS RELATED TO FORMAT RANKED OF GREATEST AND LEAST 
IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY PUBLISHERS 



37 



Factors Ranked in Highest 
Quarter of 90 Factors 



Factors Ranked in Lowest 
Quarter of 90 Factors 



i a 
47/2 
8 
I b 
40 
ig 
4<? 
So. 



3<: 
4/ 



I/ 
i h 



5<r 
6d 

9JT 
9/ 



Attractive page 

Opaque paper 

Black ink 

Attractive binding 

Book of average size 

Clear, legible type 

Book of comfortable size 

Type about 1 1 point 

Sturdy binding 

Dull-surfaced paper 

Well-spaced type 

Appropriate illustrations 

Even-colored paper 

Open-face type 

Attractive type 

Broken page 

Light-weight book 

Book not forbidding in appearance 

White paper 

Length of line, 20 picas 

Adequate margins 

Captioned illustrations 

Maps and diagrams 



ic Size of book larger than a textbook 

id Book of about 64-96 pages 

4 Type No. 7 Old Style 

4 Dull ink 

4y Caslon Old Style monotype 

4*0 Type harmonious with book 

4* Type depending on line and page 

$d Length of line about 3 "-4" 

5/ Line not over 24 picas 

5<? Line about 22 picas 

6f Well-proportioned margins 

6g- Margins giving balanced effect of 

facing pages 
\h Glossy paper 

le Size of book about 14 cm. by 16 cm. 
Q.B Book of about 50 pages 
zc Book of about 75 pages 
40 Large type 
4fd Small type 

4J Spacing like double typing 
$a Length of line about 2f "~2-{j-" 
9* Illustrations in books on biography 

and science 

o/ Colored illustrations 
9& Illustrations of cartoon type 



308 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



TABLE LXXIV 

FACTORS RELATED TO FORMAT RANKED OF GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE 
TO READABILITY BY OTHERS INTERESTED IN ADULT EDUCATION 



Factors Ranked in Highest 
Quarter of 90 Factors 



Factors Ranked in Lowest 
Quarter of 90 Factors 



83 Attractive binding 

4772 Black ink 

jc Attractive page 

ib Book of average size 
*4& Well-spaced type 
*40 Clear, legible type 

yd Illustrations adj acent to text 

8<z Sturdy binding 

if Light-weight book 

9 Captioned illustrations 

oj Appropriate illustrations 

yk Attractive illustrations 

9/ Maps and diagrams 

id Size of book about 5" by 8" 

3^ Dull-surfaced paper 

4p Attractive type 

5^ Length of line not over 5 J" 
*iA Size of book not forbidding 

34 Opaque paper 

$d White paper 

3j Good paper 

9<r Illustrations in books on biography 
and science 

91 Not childish illustrations 



6a Wide, liberal margins 

9<? Illustrations on same paper as text 

9/ Colored illustrations 

ib Book of about 50 pages 

ie Book of about 300 pages 

40 Large type 

3* Not white paper 

4*' Type with 4-point leading 

5<r Length of line, 20 picas 

8^ Appropriate binding 

3^ Glossy paper 

4^ Small type 

4 Dull ink 

4/ Type 91 2, point 

4# Type with 2-point leading 

$d Length of line about 3 "-4" 

6e Good margins 

8/ Binding in warm, dark colors 

ic Size of book larger than a textbook 

if Size of book about 14 cm. by 16 cm. 

4 A Type No. 7 Old Style 

5 Length of line, reasonable 

4* Medium-sized type 



* Considered of special significance as indicated on the check-list by ( VV) 



APPENDIXES 



39 



TABLE LXXV 

FACTORS RELATED TO GENERAL FEATURES OF ORGANIZATION RANKED OF 
GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY LIBRARIANS 



Factors Ranked in Highest 
Quarter of 37 Factors 



Factors Ranked in Lowest 
Quarter of 37 Factors 



20 Descriptive chapter headings 

4/z Table of contents 

la Striking title of book 

3f Paragraph divisions not like a textbook 

4^ Index with catchy title 

4* No marginal notes 

4g- References following text 

3<? Paragraph divisions not numbered 

4/ No footnotes 



4* Appendix for references 
3* Subheads in bold-faced type 
id Dignified title 
le Connotative tide 
4h All references in text proper 
4/ Index 
3# Subheads 
4? Footnotes 

40 Summary of chapters in table 
contents 



of 



TABLE LXXVI 

FACTORS RELATED TO GENERAL FEATURES or ORGANIZATION RANKED OF 
GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY PUBLISHERS 



Factors Ranked in Highest 
Quarter of 37 Factors 



Factors Ranked in Lowest 
Quarter of 37 Factors 



ia Descriptive chapter headings 
4# Table of contents 
la Striking title of book 
4& Index with catchy title 
ic Meaningful title of book 
2^ Running chapter headings 
$f Paragraph divisions not like a text- 
book 

4^ All references in text proper 
4*' Appendix for all references 



Subheads in bold-faced type 

No index 

Footnotes 

Title of human interest 

Decorative chapter heads 

Progressive chapter divisions 

No subheads 

Progressive paragraph divisions 

Index 



310 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



TABLE LXXVII 

FACTORS RELATED TO GENERAL FEATURES OF ORGANIZATION RANKED OF 

GREATEST AND LEAST IMPORTANCE TO READABILITY BY OTHERS 

INTERESTED IN ADULT EDUCATION 



Factors Ranked in Highest 
Quarter of 37 Factors 



Factors Ranked in Lowest 
Quarter of 37 Factors 



4<? Table of contents 
la Striking title of books 
ia Descriptive chapter headings 
30 Subheads 

3f Paragraph divisions not like a text- 
book 

4h All references in text proper 
%d Interesting subheads 
3<r Subheads in bold-faced type 
4^ Index with catchy title 



ic Meaningful title of book 

if Title of human interest 

id Headings of chapters to arouse curiosity 

if Chapters with concrete introduction 

aj- Chapters with summary at end 

3^ Paragraph divisions numbered 

4k Glossary, mentioned in text 

4/ Index 

4 Few references 



APPENDIX C 

The construction of adult reading tests from representative materials of fic- 
tion and of general non-fiction is described in Appendix C. 

That the tests constructed from the selected materials should represent as 
many potential elements of difficulty as possible seemed essential in order, 
first, that the criterion of difficulty obtained for each item might truly repre- 
sent a combination of many influences; and, second, that the final identifica- 
tion of elements of difficulty might be as complete and reliable as the scope of 
the study would allow. 

Six major steps of procedure were followed: 

1. Determining a means of measuring comprehension for this investiga- 
tion. 

2. Selecting appropriate test items. 

3. Preparing responses for the test items. 

4. Evaluating the test responses. 

5. Rating the difficulty of test responses. 

6. Arranging the two tests in final form. 

7. Determining the validity and reliability of the tests. 

DETERMINING A MEANS OF MEASURING COMPREHENSION 

What constitutes comprehension? The type of tests constructed for this 
study was determined in the light of the theory accepted regarding the nature 
of comprehension. That comprehension is not a single unitary process is gen- 
erally conceded. It is, rather, a blending of many processes whose totality 
represents understanding. The resolution of comprehension into its compo- 
nent processes has not been satisfactorily accomplished. As a consequence, 
now one process and now another is taken as a measure of comprehension, as 
test-makers try to determine what to measure. 

Not only is comprehension thought of as a combination of several processes, 
but it is conceived of possessing different levels of quality. From mere percep- 
tion rises the beginning of understanding, manifested by thoughts, feelings, or 
impulses aroused by the reading material. From this realm of immediate ac- 
tion or naive emotional expression, a person arrives ultimately at a level of 
understanding which implies some degree of intellectual discrimination, which 
requires him to distinguish the thought invited by the words from other 
thoughts more or less like it.* It is this level that marks maturity of under- 
standing. 

* C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards, The Meaning of Meaning (New York: Harcourt, 
Brace & Co., 1927), pp. 185-208* 

J. A. Richards, Practical Criticism (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 192,9), pp. 
179-88, 326-30. 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

A thorough measure of comprehension would involve the use of a series of 
tests for measuring as many aspects of comprehension as are known. It would 
involve, also, a measure of these aspects at various levels, in order that the de- 
gree of maturity represented by a reader's comprehension might be deter- 
mined. Scientific techniques are as yet too undeveloped for such an ambitious 
undertaking. What the test-maker must do, therefore, is to decide upon the 
aspect of comprehension he will measure and the level at which he proposes to 
measure it. He then faces the baffling question of how to measure it. The is- 
sues discussed in the remaining paragraphs of this section indicate something 
of the complexity that attends the problem of measuring comprehension. 

What aspects of comprehension shall be measured? Two aspects of compre- 
hension directed the construction of tests used in this study: (i) the ability to 
get the "sense** of what is read, in the form of a general impression of the total 
meaning; and (2) the ability to recall specific elements in a selection. These 
aspects were accepted as being of first importance, after an examination was 
made of the major outcomes resulting from reading general materials. 

Since no scientifically determined list of outcomes has been derived, it was 
necessary to resort to empirical judgment and to infer probable outcomes from 
facts about the purposes for which people read, 2 from evidence as to the mo- 
tives that stimulate reading,^ and from typical situations known to promote 
various types of reading. 4 An attempt was made to select facts pertaining to 
the purposes, motives, and situations that lead to the general reading of books, 
magazines, and newspapers. Since the facts themselves are presumably not 
exhaustive, no claim can be made for the inferences drawn from them beyond 
the probability that they represent the major outcomes resulting from reading 
for a variety of purposes in a variety of general situations. 

After the facts pertaining to purposes, motives, and situations had been 
gathered, the following question was propounded: What outcomes proba- 
bly arise from reading "for fun," "for emotional satisfaction," "to ac- 
quire general information," "to gather specific information about a special 

* Personal conferences with more than 900 adults revealed five major purposes in 
reading, as reported in: William S. Gray, 'The Importance of Intelligent Silent Read- 
ing," Elementary School Journal, XXIV (January, 1924), 349-52. 

From interviews with approximately 300 adults, Parsons obtained a list of frequently 
mentioned purposes in reading: Rhey B. Parsons, "A Study of Adult Reading." Un- 
published Master's thesis, Dept. of Education, University of Chicago, 1923. Pp. 124. 

Interviews with loo adults and 410 answered questionnaires gave Montgomery 
data pertaining to the chief reasons for reading recreational material: Wilda Lee Mont- 
gomery, "The Investigation of the Uses of Recreatory Reading," University of Pitts- 
burgh School of Education Journal, IV (March-April, 1929), 90-91. 

5 Interests and motives of approximately 1,200 young people and adults who con- 
sulted the reader's adviser in Milwaukee are listed in the following reference: W. S- 
Gray and Ruth Monroe, The Reading Interests andHMts ofddufa (New York: Mao- 
millan Co., 1929), pp, 268-69. 

4 Situations prompting informational and recreational reading appear in: The Twen- 
ty-fourth Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Part I, pp. 5-8. 
Bloomington, Illinois: Public School Publishing Co., 1925. 



APPENDIXES 313 

topic," "to extend experience," "to improve one's literary appreciation," "to 
satisfy one's curiosity," or "to forget"? 

Four major outcomes were inferred. They may be stated as follows :* 

1. The ability to get the sense of what is read in the form of a single im- 
pression, evidenced by the statement of a generalization or a summary. 

2. The ability to recall specific elements in material, evidenced by a knowl- 
edge of the facts presented in it or by the ability to follow directions contained 
therein. 

3. The ability to apprehend the author's intention, indicated by the read- 
er's conception of the purpose that prompts plot and action. 

4. An emotional reaction, normally expressed by some personal coloring or 
feeling-tone that seems inextricably blended with the sense of what is read. 

A critical examination of these outcomes gave rise to two assumptions. The 
first was that the ability to grasp the essential meaning of a selection in the 
form of a single impression is the outcome that is most frequently demanded 
of adults in the reading of general material. The second assumption was that a 
large amount of reading is done in order to gain specific information contained 
in the selection. Furthermore, since the ability to grasp the essential meaning 
seems to depend in a measure upon the ability to react satisfactorily to spe- 
cific elements contained m the selection, it was assumed that any technique 
devised to measure the first outcome will indirectly measure the second. 

Several important questions arose in the consideration of what seem to be 
the major outcomes of adult reading. Is the same measure of comprehension 
valid for both fiction and non-fiction? If the purposes and motives which 
prompt reading "to forget" are different from .those which prompt reading "to 
learn," may not the major outcomes of the first be different from the major 
outcomes of the second? May not the outcomes of the former tend toward 
emotional rather than intellectual reactions, as in the case of the latter? 

The implications of such questions as these were weighed carefully at the 
outset. It seemed clear from a survey of reading situations that different out- 
comes may predominate at different times. Sometimes all four outcomes ap- 
pear to function about equally well. Again, all four may fail together, or a 
low quality in any one be accompanied by aberrations in the others. If such 
observations are well founded, then it seems probable that a direct measure of 
one outcome may be an indirect measure of another. Furthermore, the ability 
to react pleasurably or unpleasurably to a reading situation implies the ability 
to sense in general what is read. No attempt was made, therefore, to meas- 
ure emotional reaction, except in so far as that outcome may be positively cor- 
related with ability to comprehend the sense of what is read in the form of 
a general impression. The technique devised for measuring the ability to grasp 
the sense of what is read will be described in the following section. 

* Outcomes numbered I, a, and 4 are similar to the major outcomes assumed by 
Dale and Tayler as measures of comprehension of technical material, represented by 
articles in the field of health: Edgar Dale and Ralph W. Tyler, "A Study of the Factors 
Influencing the Difficulty of Reading Materials for Adults of Limited Reading Ability," 
Library Quarterly, IV (July, 1934), 384-412. 



314 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

How to measure comprehension. In this study, the ability to grasp the es- 
sential meaning of a selection in the form of a single impression or generaliza- 
tion was measured by the success with which an individual identified the gen- 
eralization in a series of statements relating to the selection. Two other meth- 
ods of measurement, both more direct, were believed unsuited to a testing 
situation of the sort created here. The one method, to require the reader to 
state orally the impression gained from reading, seemed hopelessly tedious. 
The other, to exact a written statement of the general impression gained from 
reading, promised to be an invalid measure of comprehension for adults whose 
facility in written expression as well as facility in reading may be limited. 
Some evidence has been reported by Tyler to show that ability to formulate a 
generalization correlates closely with ability to check the best generalization 
in a multiple-choice test, as indicated by coefficients of .79 and .85. 6 Accord- 
ingly, the latter method of identifying the best generalization, in a series of 
statements, was adopted in this study as a valid and expeditious means of 
measuring a reader's ability to get the general sense of a selection in the 
form of a single impression. 

In order to increase the reliability of the measure of comprehension, a sec- 
ond reaction to the material was required. This measure, like the first, was 
suggested by the Ohio study. 7 The assumption was made that a good test of 
comprehension is the success with which one formulates, or identifies, a gen- 
eralization of a selection, and that it, furthermore, involves the ability to tell 
what is not in the selection or to identify in a series of statements the one that 
is false. In other words, if a reader has an accurate notion of what he has read 
in a selection, he should also be aware of what he has not read in the selection. 
Two reactions were therefore required for each test item as a measure of the 
reader's comprehension, defined in terms of the outcomes previously de- 
scribed. 

Form of test adopted. The multiple-choice test was adopted to measure 
comprehension as it has been defined here. This test used a number of discon- 
nected paragraphs from reading materials previously selected as sources of 
test items. The method of selecting the paragraphs will be explained in the 
next section. Two reactions were required for each item to measure ability to 
get the general sense of the paragraph and to measure at the same time 
ability to recall specific information. The first reaction was the identification 
of the best summary of the paragraph in a series of five statements relating to 
the paragraph. The second was the recognition, in the series of statements, of 
the one not in the paragraph. 

SELECTING TEST ITEMS 

Test items of fiction and general informational material were chosen from a 
large number of sample paragraphs selected from representative books, maga- 
zines, and newspapers. The question of what kind of paragraphs to choose 

6 Ralph W. Tyler, "Ability to Use Scientific Method," Educational Research Bulle- 
tin, XI (January 6, 1932), 1-9. 

i Dale and Tyler, op. cit., pp. 6-7. 



APPENDIXES 315 

from representative reading material to serve as test items was answered by a 
consideration of several conditions previously established. These conditions 
were concerned with: (i) the outcomes of reading accepted here as measures of 
comprehension; (2) the nature of the tests to be constructed; (3) the kind of 
adult readers to be tested; and (4) the specific elements whose difficulty was 
to be established. Each of these conditions has been discussed in connection 
with earlier problems. 

From a consideration of these four conditions, four criteria were established 
for selecting paragraphs, on the assumption that a paragraph which met all 
criteria would meet the conditions of the study and therefore be a valid test 
item. The criteria were stated in the form of the following principles: 

1. Each item must be independent of the content preceding and following 
it in order that responses shall not require further acquaintance with the sub- 
ject matter from which the item is drawn. 

2. Each item must manifest a completeness, indicated by the development 
of a single unit of thought, in order that the reader can get a single impression 
of the general meaning of the item. 

3. Each item must contain as many variants in expression as possible, in 
order that the identification of elements of difficulty in adult reading materi- 
als may be reliable. 

4. Each item must be brief, in order not to discourage readers of limited 
ability, and in order to include a wide sampling of materials. An approximate 
length of one hundred words is arbitrarily established. 

The selection of "'promising" samples, The first step in choosing sample 
paragraphs was to read hastily through a particular book, magazine, or news- 
paper, selected as a source of test items, with all of the foregoing principles in 
mind. Frequently a cursory glance sufficed to indicate whether a page con- 
tained usable paragraphs. All passages that seemed to meet the require- 
ments were marked at the first reading. They were then examined critically 
with respect to the third principle, which directed attention toward variants 
in expression that might influence difficulty. Although it seemed reasonable 
to expect that a sampling which claimed to be representative of adult reading 
materials would, of necessity, be representative of difficulties inherent in 
them, it was believed necessary to make a definite attempt to select items 
with a wide range of expressional variants. As a result of such attention in 
selecting sample paragraphs, those finally used as test items contained forty- 
four of the variants listed in chapter iv in sufficient number to merit correla- 
tion. 

Passages that appeared to be undesirable after careful scrutiny were 
eliminated, until there remained forty-six paragraphs of general informational 
content and forty-two paragraphs of fiction from which to choose test items. 
The desirability of a passage rested primarily on our personal judgment since 
length of paragraph was the only objective standard applied in the selection 
of sample paragraphs. Other objective standards were added, however, in 
selecting test items from the sample paragraphs. 

Analyzing sample paragraphs for elements of potential difficulty. The gener- 
al plan of the study called for two tests, one of which would measure compre- 



316 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

hension of fiction; and the other, of general non-fiction. In order that the tests 
might be adapted to groups of adults of various levels of ability, the plan fur- 
ther required that the tests should represent, so far as possible, a wide range of 
probable difficulty. 

The next step, therefore, was to arrange the sample paragraphs into ranks 
one for fiction and the other for non-fiction, each representing a scale of 
probable difficulty, as determined by the occurrence in the items often poten- 
tial elements of difficulty. These were chosen somewhat arbitrarily from the 
list compiled in chapter iv. There seemed reason to believe, from the evidence 
presented in that chapter, that these elements would be the most reliable for 
selecting and ranking test items. From the list that follows, it may be noted 
that some of the elements had been used earlier in roughly designating the 
rank of books, magazines, and newspapers which were to serve as sources of 
test items. 

The ten elements used in selecting items for the fiction and non-fiction tests 
were: percentage of easy words; number of different hard words; number of 
words not known to 90 per cent of sixth-grade pupils; percentage of monosyl- 
lables; percentage of polysyllables; number of prepositional and infinitive 
phrases; number of first-, second-, and third-person pronouns; percentage of 
different words; average sentence-length in syllables; and number of e words. 

Each of the forty-six sample paragraphs of non-fiction and forty-two para- 
graphs of fiction was analyzed for the presence of these ten elements. The 
data were tabulated on large tabulation sheets in such a way that each para- 
graph, designated by letter, might be seen in relation to every other paragraph 
with respect to all ten elements. 

Comparison of findings. Each tabulation sheet was examined critically for 
the purpose of ascertaining the consistency with which a given paragraph held 
to a particular level of relative difficulty among other paragraphs represented 
on the sheet. Levels of difficulty were here defined in terms of deviations in 
the number or per cent of occurrence of an element in the direction of simplicity 
or complexity. If a paragraph showed marked deviation in one or more ele- 
ments from its general level, as indicated by other elements, it was rejected. 
If several paragraphs held approximately the same place, some of them were 
eliminated. 

The two tabulation sheets were next examined comparatively for the pur- 
pose of determining relative levels of difficulty represented by the two sets of 
paragraphs. This examination revealed two important findings: (i) that the 
non-fiction material, taken as representative of what adults are reading, ex- 
tended farther in the direction of complexity than fiction; and (2) that selec- 
tions of fiction reached a level of simplicity lower than general non-fiction. In 
order to make the scale of difficulty relatively comparable in the two tests, it 
was necessary to improve the "representativeness" of sources of test items by 
finding easier non-fiction material of a general informational type and more 
difficult fiction. 

Extending the range of probable difficulty represented by the tests, Very sim- 
ple statements on informational subjects were found in a series of reading 



APPENDIXES 317 

texts designed for use in adult moonlight schools. 8 These texts are character- 
ized by short, frequently repeated words and by brief, simple sentences. Nar- 
rative material, of a more complex sort than appeared to be represented by the 
samples already analyzed, was found in three novels, The Return of the Native* 
Ethan Frame, 10 and Youth. From these books sample paragraphs were ob- 
tained and entered on the tabulation sheets at their appropriate levels. 

Selection and ranking of test items. Since it was hoped that one value of the 
study would lie in its serviceableness in adapting reading materials to abilities 
of adults who are limited in their skill in reading, it seemed desirable to utilize 
an optimum of test items that could probably be read with some understand- 
ing by such persons. A few items whose difficulty was apparently beyond their 
comprehension were desired in order that the tests might be used to measure 
comprehension of heterogeneous groups. From a critical examination of the 
tabulated paragraphs it was possible to select as test items those paragraphs 
which seemed to show progressive stages of difficulty over a wide range. 
Twenty-five paragraphs in each type of material were selected as test items. 
This number was reduced later to twenty-four. 

It must be repeated that the arrangement of items in each form represented 
merely a scale of relative difficulty, as determined by the occurrence often po- 
tential indicators of difficulty. Such an arrangement may seem to disregard the 
influence of other elements which had been set off as bearing probable relation 
to difficulty. Since the entire list of elements compiled in chapter iv had been 
kept in mind in choosing sample paragraphs, it was believed that the definite 
implications of a few "promising" elements, whose relationship to difficulty 
was already known for other types of material, were adequate for the final se- 
lection of test items. 

PREPARING RESPONSES FOR TEST ITEMS 

After selecting test items, the next important step was the preparation of a 
series of responses for each item from which the reader was to choose the one 
he thought the best summary of the selection and the one he thought the 
poorest. 

Number of responses. In every case five responses were formulated, as 
shown in the sample item on page 60. These represented the best summary 
statement of the thought in the paragraph; the worst summary statement, 
presenting something not in the paragraph; and three others, in approximately 
normal distribution between the two extremes. The use of at least four or five 
responses was believed to be distinctly advantageous in minimizing chance 

8 Cora Wilson Stewart, Country Life Readers ', Books I and II. Richmond: Johnson 
Publishing Co., 1931. 

* Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 
1917), p. 116. 

M Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911), p. 142, 
" Joseph Conrad, Youth (Garden City: Garden City Publishing Co., 1903), p. 192. 



3i8 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

successes in multiple-choice tests. 13 Another advantage was believed to attend 
the use of five responses in the present study. It seemed probable that some 
adults could draw conclusions closer to either or both of the correct answers 
than could others. The finer measuring device would therefore provide a means 
of assigning credit for differences in ability with relative fairness and dis- 
crimination, the credit being determined by the reader's ability to choose the 
best and the poorest summary for each item. 

Formulating summary statements. The method followed in obtaining re- 
sponses to the test items was to have three competent readers formulate two 
tentative summaries for each paragraph in the two tests. Each reader was 
asked to do three things: 

I. To read each test item and then to formulate independently what he be- 
lieved to be the best and the poorest summary of the thought in the para- 
graph. Caution was given to make the poorest summary sound plausible so 
that its poor quality would not be obvious. 

a. To state each summary in language less difficult than the test item. 
This precaution was taken in order to prevent the later assignment of a degree 
of difficulty to an item that was truly the product of the difficulty for its re- 
sponses. 

3. To evaluate the summaries in joint conference with the other two read- 
ers and to select the best statements of the best and poorest summaries to use 
as test responses. 

The three intervening responses between the best and the worst sum- 
maries were formulated later with the help of two of the readers. We then 
determined the order of arrangement of the five responses for each item by 
chance. 

Preliminary evaluation. Before the responses were accepted as final, the 
tests were given to adult groups to evaluate the responses. Two purposes 
prompted this step in the procedure. They were: to determine how well the 
responses had been scaled from best to poorest, and to discover the extent to 
which the wording of the responses involved difficulty. 

The tests were given in mimeographed form to an undergraduate class at 
the University of Chicago, whose members were majoring in English and the 
Social Sciences, and to a graduate class in Education, meeting at the Univer- 
sity College for a course called "The Use of Achievement Tests for Improve- 
ment of Instruction/' The following instructions were attached to the test- 
sheets: 

"Read over the twenty-five items in each test. After you have read an 
item, assign values to each of its five responses. Give a value of / to the re- 
sponse that is the best summary of the paragraph. Give 5 to the poorest sum- 
mary. Distribute scores for the other three responses as you think they should 
be evaluated. If you believe a response differs only slightly from the best, in- 
dicate by a score near i, possibly 1.5. If you believe two responses are equally 
good summaries, you may give each of them a ranking of i. 

" Similarly, if you believe one response is very close to the one you rate the 
lowest, you may give it a score of 4.5, or 4.8, or whatever your judgment die- 

M G, M. Ruch, The Objective or New-Type Examination (Chicago: Scott, Foresman 
&Co., 



APPENDIXES 319 

tates. Also, if you think two responses are in all ways equally unsatisfactory 
you may rate each of them 5. 

"After you have assigned values to each of the five responses, will you in- 
dicate how much difficulty you had in deciding which was the best response? 
And in deciding which was the poorest response ? Do this by writing E for easy, 
M for medium, and H for hard on the lines provided for this record." 

The administrator of the test took opportunity while the students carried 
on this evaluation to observe the amount of time utilized in reading the par- 
graphs and to estimate the amount needed to select the best and poorest re- 
sponses. The evidence seemed to indicate that adults whose abilities were 
similar to those of university students could finish either test in a period of 
twenty or thirty minutes and that adults of lesser ability would probably re- 
quire a longer period for answering items within their comprehension. 

Revision of test responses. Approximately thirty-five students evaluated all 
of the responses for both tests. Their reactions were tabulated and used as a 
basis for revision of the test responses. Two types of revision were made, one 
intended to improve the scaling of the responses from best to poorest sum- 
maries, and the other to obviate any difficulties discovered in determining 
which response was the best or the poorest summary. 

In revising responses to improve the scaling, the following plan was used. 
If considerable disagreement was noted in ranking a given response, the state- 
ment was either modified in the direction of its most frequent ranking or it 
was rejected entirely and a new statement formulated. 

In revision designed to overcome difficulties in choosing the response stat- 
ing the best or the poorest summary, an effort was made to obviate the tend- 
ency to test judgment above comprehension. For example, if university stu- 
dents marked a summary statement H, it was evident that they had difficulty 
in selecting which was the best response in the series. If, in addition to indi- 
cating the hardness of selecting the response, they also rated a poor summary 
as best, or rated more than one response as best, it was evident that the best 
response was not discriminative. In such a case, a new best response was for- 
mulated which aimed at a higher quality of goodness as a summary statement 
than other responses in the series. 

EVALUATING TEST RESPONSES 

Theory of evaluation. After responses of doubtful value were revised and 
critically examined by the readers who had first formulated them, the next 
step was to evaluate each response in order to determine the credit it should 
receive as a measure of comprehension. That is, it was essential that each re- 
sponse in a series should have a value, which would represent the amount of 
credit that an individual should receive for marking it the best and the amount 
that he should receive in case he marked it poorest. There was believed to be 
greater fairness attached to giving credit for every response than would attend 
giving credit for only the responses established as statements of the best and 
the poorest summaries. As was mentioned in the previous section, an attempt 
was made to scale the responses according to the goodness of the summary 
represented by them. It was assumed, therefore, that for every item there 
was a second response closer to the best than any other; and also a second re- 



320 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

sponse closer to the poorest than any other. There was presumably an inter- 
mediate response, as close to the best as to the poorest. 

If an individual should choose a second-rate response, he should receive 
credit indicating better comprehension than would have been indicated by 
choosing the intermediate response as "best" or ^poorest" Although assign- 
ing credit for every response (which would account for varying degrees of 
merit) was less expeditious than assigning credit for only the best and the 
poorest summaries, it seemed a more valid measure of comprehension. 

Method of evaluation. In order to determine the worth of each response as 
a paragraph summary, nine persons who had had considerable experience with 
tests were asked to rate the five responses for each test item. Copies of both 
tests with their revised summaries were given to each reader. The same direc- 
tions were given to them as had been given to the university groups, namely, 
(i) to signify the best response by a rating of i, the poorest response by a rat- 
ing of 5, and other responses by a rating which they judged valid; and (2) to 
indicate for each item the degree of difficulty experienced in selecting the best 
and the poorest responses. 

When the ratings assigned to the five responses on each item in the tests 
were tabulated, practical unanimity was found among the judges in their rat- 
ing of the best and the poorest response. Some disagreement, the extent of 
which will be discussed in succeeding paragraphs, was noted in the rating of 
other responses. 

From the independent ratings of each response by nine judges, a value was 
calculated to be used in determining the credit received by any individual 
checking that response as best or poorest. The simple average of the nine rat- 
ings was taken as the mean value. 

An examination of these mean values showed that, in many cases, the mean 
value of the best and the poorest response was i and 5, respectively. These 
values usually represented the average of identical ratings for these responses 
by all judges. Where such was the case, these values were considered "true" 
values of the responses in so far as the identical rating of the nine judges may 
be taken as representative of the average rating of an infinite number of 
judges. 

Concerning the variability among ratings of other responses, the first ques- 
tion raised was : How well does the mean value of each response represent the 
true value which would be obtained from an infinite number of judges? The 
method followed in answering this question was to express the reliability of a 
mean value in terms of the standard deviation of the individual ratings for the 
response, divided by the square root of the number of judges rating the re- 

sponse; that is, in terms of CTM=-~~ - 13 The meaning of standard errors of 

** Henry E. Garrett, Statistics in Psychology and Education (New York; Longmans, 
Green & Co., 1926), p. 121. 



j 

Since the formula for 0"(dis) 3 ='c|"-:rr- , the formula for &M becomes 



_ 
bO> 

*\f w 





APPENDIXES 321 

the mean values of the responses, obtained by this formula, may be illustrated 
as follows: 14 

Take response Number I in Item I, Form I. It was rated 2 by six judges 
and 3 by three judges. Its mean value is, therefore, 2.3. It has a standard 
error of .156, which means that the probable chances are two out of three that 
the true value lies within one standard error of 2.3, that is, within the limits 
2.3+. 156 and 2.3 .156, or between 2.456 and 2.144. 

The standard errors were used here to determine the significance of differ- 
ences between adjacent values. Again, Item i, Form i, may be taken as an 
example. A comparison of the mean value for response Number i, which is 
2.3, with the mean value for response Number 3, which is 2.7, indicated that 
the one is not markedly better than the other. Since the standard errors, rep- 
resenting their deviations from the true values, are low, it was evident that the 
responses are more sharply evaluated than is shown by their mean values 
alone. The amount of difference between adjacent responses in other items 
was interpreted in a similar fashion. 

Reliability of judgments* Another approach to an evaluation of reliability 
was through the question: Are nine judges enough so that their composite 
mean values on one item are statistically reliable? To answer this question, 
one needs to know the average intercorrelation among the judges on each 
item and then apply the Spearman-Brown Prophecy-Formula to estimate the 
number of judges needed to attain a minimal reliability desired for a given 
item. 15 Frequently only an approximation to the average intercorrelation of 
judges is used, either the correlations between the ratings of two of the judges, 
randomly chosen, or an average of three or more intercorrelations from the 
total number. Rather than make use of such approximations, based on a few 
of the judges, we decided to make approximations based on all the judges 
for a part of the items. The formula used for solving the average intercorrela- 
tions makes use of actual ratings without computing any of the individual 
correlation coefficients. 16 Since the use of this simplified formula still in- 
volves a tremendous amount of labor for all items in the two tests, it was be- 

*4 For individual ratings by the nine judges, the mean values, and the standard errors 
of the mean values, see: Bernice E. Leary, "Elements of Reading Materials Contribut- 
ing to Difficulties in Comprehension on the Part of Adults" (Doctor's dissertation, 
Department of Education, University of Chicago, 1933), pp. 97-104. 

s Truman L. Kelley, Statistical Method (New York: Macmillan Co., 1924), p. 218. 
16 The formula is stated as follows: 



ss~ ; A fj I <_j i I i~"~~^v I *J I I |~ f , i** mraiav*** iT ~~ u*t .uujuiubj 0* TC'* 

spouses; number of judged; $ means a summation for each response of : where; 



Ay'B^C / judges; - for one judge. See: Harold A, Edgerton and Herbert 

A. Toops, "A Formula for Finding the Average Intercorrelation Coefficient of Unranked 
Raw Scores without Solving Any of the Individual Intercorrelations,*' Journal of Edu- 
cational Psychology, XIX (February, 1928), 131-38. 



322 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



lieved that the average intercorrelation of selected items from each form would 
give results which might serve as a basis for estimating the reliability of the 
composite judgment for all items. 

A range in reliability of judgments was obtained from average intercorrela- 
tions computed for items whose variability was greatest and least for all 
items, as indicated by their average standard errors. Items numbered I and 
15 had the least and the greatest variability, respectively, in composite judg- 
ment for all items in Form i, Item Number 6 having been cast out of the 
test for reasons that will be explained later. Among items in Form 2, those 
numbered, respectively, 19 and 23 had the least and the greatest variability, 
excluding Item 15, which had been rejected from the test along with Item 6 in 
Form i. 

The average intercorrelations were computed for these items and their 
values substituted for TV in the Spearman-Brown Prophecy-Formula to ob- 

TABLE LXXVIII 

RELIABILITY or COMPOSITE JUDGMENT FOR ITEMS REPRESENTING THE 
RANGE OF VARIABILITY IN FORM i AND FORM 2 





FORM 


i 






FORM 


2 






Num- 


Average 






Num- 


Average 




Item 


ber of 
Re- 


Intercor- 
rela- 


Relia- 
bility 


Item 


ber of 
Re- 


Intercor- 
rela- 


Relia- 
bility 




sponses 


tions 






sponses 


tions 




j 






.004. 


TQ 


r 


.OK 


g 


I r 


r 


,OOQ 


.0*76 




j 


y* j 
.784 


070 




j 












' 



tain their reliability coefficients. 17 Results are shown in Table LXXVIII. The 
following conclusions may be drawn from the facts presented in this table: 

1. The reliability of composite judgments of nine judges for both forms of 
the test ranges from .994 to .970, when items with lowest and highest variabil- 
ity in judgment represent the range. 

2. There is evidence that the nine judges used here would agree closely 
with another group of nine judges as to the relative value of test items in 
Form i and Form 2, 

3. The nine judges agreed more closely with another group of nine, as indi- 
cated by the reliability coefficients, than their mean values agreed with the 

r ? Formula for prediction is 



See: Holzinger, op. cit^ p. 



APPENDIXES 323 

true values of responses (other than best and poorest), as indicated by the 
standard errors. 

4. For purposes of this study, nine judges were reliable, since perfect reli- 
ability of the composite score would, of 'course, be possible only by using an 
infinite number of judges. 

So far as reliability could be determined by the methods reported in this 
section, it was believed that the mean value of each response, representing the 
combined ratings of nine judges, might be taken as reliable measures of value. 

RATING DIFFICULTY OF RESPONSES 

Method used. In addition to evaluating each test response by ratings from 
i to 5, the judges were asked to indicate by the letters -E, Af, and H> the degree 
of difficulty which they experienced in discriminating the best and the poorest 
response of each item. This difficulty is not the same as difficulty in compre- 
hending the reading materials, since it is due to the wording of the response 
rather than to the meaning of the selection. 

A somewhat arbitrary method, designated the 2-1-0 method, was utilized 
to give numerical values to the difficulty ratings. Each H rating was given 2 
points; each M rating was given I point; and each E rating, o points. All 
the ratings of the nine judges were then tabulated by points, for the best and 
the poorest response in each paragraph. From these the total difficulty of each 
response was computed. For example, the best response for Item i, Form i, 
was rated E by eight judges and M by one judge. No judge rated it H. Its 
summated difficulty was therefore 8 Xo plus i X I or r. The poorest response 
for the same item, rated E by six judges, M by two judges, and H by one 
judge, had a difficulty of 4. 

Validity of the 2-i~o method. Although the a-i-o method of rating diffi- 
culty is clearly arbitrary, it has been found to give results about identical with 
those of the deviation method/ 8 which calculates values for an individual's 
ratings of E, M> and H, separately, in terms of the standard deviation from 
the individual's mean rating.*? Since the a-r-o method of calculating difficul- 
ty scores thus appears to be valid, it was used in preference to the deviation 
method on account of its simplicity. 

Interpretation of difficulty values. From the relative values of E, M, a.ndH 
assigned to each response, it was possible to determine whether variations in 
difficulty of choosing the best and the poorest responses were of enough sig- 
nificance to require weighting the value of the selections. Accordingly, the nu- 

* 8 Douglas Waples and Ralph W. Tyler, What People Want to Read About (Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1931), pp. 173-74- 

** The standard deviation value for an individual rating is calculated by the formula: 
Ti/t V V A*f 

^ " in which * signifies the mean value for a given rating expressed in 
(T r ff 

standard deviation units; Yi represents the left ordinate of the portion of the assumed 
normal curve which thia rating represents; Y* represents the right ordinate; and F signi- 
fies the fractional part of all the individual's ratings which are a, I, or o, as the case 
may be. Holzinger, op. cfa 9 p. an. 



3 2 4 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

merical values of E y M, and H were thrown into two frequency distributions 
for each test, one for the numerical difficulty assigned to choosing the best re- 
sponse; and the other, the poorest response. The modal value was then found 
by inspection to serve as a standard. A deviation of four points in either direc- 
tion from the mode marked a limit above or below which the difficulty of a re- 
sponse was plainly distinct from the difficulty of other responses in the test. 
Approximately all of the best and poorest responses in both tests were found 
to deviate relatively little from the mode. This fact indicated that difficulty 
due to wording of the responses might be considered generally insignificant. 
Two exceptions were noted in Item 6 of Form i and in Item 15 of Form 2. 
In both cases, the best and poorest responses deviated four and six points 
from their respective modes, indicating that these responses contained inher- 
ent difficulty due to wording. 

The usual method of correcting for difficulty is weighting the response in 
the direction determined by the deviation. Although technically the weight- 
ing of test responses insures greater accuracy, practically weighted scores have 
been found to correlate so closely with unweighted scores that the work in- 
volved in deriving and using weights is considered unnecessary. 30 Since the 
weight of a series of scores is given by its variability, a series which has not 
been artificially weighted may be said to have a natural weight corresponding 
to its standard deviation. 

The process of weighting having been shown to be not only cumbersome but 
more or less futile, it was decided to reject Item 6 from Form i and Item 15 
from Form 2. With these omissions, the number of test items in each form 
was reduced to twenty-four. 

ARRANGING THE TESTS IN FINAL FORM 

With the rating of test responses for difficulty, the last major task in the 
construction of the tests was completed. A set of directions and a fore-exer- 
cise preceded the first item in each test form. They have been illustrated earli- 
er in chapter iv. 

Provision was made for obtaining personal data about the subject in spaces 
designated for that purpose on the cover page of each form. These data in- 
cluded name of subject, date of testing, age within nearest five years, last 
grade attended in day school, length of attendance in night school, amount of 
time devoted to reading per day, and name of occupation. 

The arrangement of items in order of their probable difficulty has been de- 
scribed in a previous section. The tests were printed in booklet form to in- 
sure legibility and ease of handling. 21 

* Evidence for this statement is reported in the following references: Karl R. Doug- 
lass and Peter L. Spencer, "Is it Necessary to Weight Exercises in Standard Tests?" 
Journal of Educational Psychology, XLV (February, 1923), 109-12; C. W. Odell, "Fur- 
ther Data Concerning the Effect of Weighting Exercises in New-Type Examinations," 
#/., XXII (December, 1931), 700-704; Douglas E. Scates and Forest R. Noffsinger, 
"Factors Which Determine the Effectiveness of Weighting," Journal of Educational 
Research, XXIV (November, 1931), 280-85. 

* Copies of Form i and Form 2 of the Adult Reading Test appear in Leary, op. cif. 



APPENDIXES 325 

SCORING TEST ITEMS 

The general plan adopted in the present study, as presented earlier, pro- 
vided that varying degrees of merit were to be assigned to each item, accord- 
ing to the value of the responses indicated by the reader as the best and the 
poorest summary. This method of giving some credit for any response checked 
by the reader was believed to give a more discriminating measure of compre- 
hension than the easier method of crediting only the selection of the truly best 
and poorest summaries. In accordance with this plan, values were derived for 
each response in the test items. Knowing the value of each response, we were 
able to calculate a reader's score on a test item by the method described in the 
following paragraph. 23 

For any response designated as poorest by "o," a score was given which 
represented the value previously obtained by averaging the ratings of nine 
judges. From this score was subtracted the value of the response designated 
as best by * l< V " Hence the score on any test item was the difference between 
the value assigned to the poorest response and the value assigned to the best. 
Had all of the nine judges been in perfect agreement as to the rating of the best 
and the poorest responses, it may be seen that the best response would have 
always a value of I, and the poorest, a value of 5. A reader who checked both 
responses correctly would receive a score representing the difference between 
5 and i, or 4. The reader who checked either or both responses incorrectly 
would receive a score less than 4. Actually, however, the average value as- 
signed to any response in an item was frequently not an integer, but a decimal 
fraction. 

To illustrate how the method of scoring was used, a test item from Form 2 
will be taken as an example. In this item the best summary was given a value 
of i.i; the second best, 1.6; the third best, 3; the fourth best, 3.6; and the 
poorest, 5. If a reader checked both the best and the poorest responses cor- 
rectly, his score would be 5 minus i.i, or 3.9, the highest score obtainable on 
that item. If he checked the worst response correctly, but checked the second 
best as best (a circumstance that could easily occur since the two responses had 
been closely evaluated), his score would be 5 minus 1.6, or 3.4. If he checked 
the worst response correctly, but chose the third best as best, his score would 
be markedly lower, being 5 minus 3, or a. If he made the worst possible choice, 
that is, if he checked the poorest response as best and the best as poorest, his 
score would be i.i minus J, or 3.9. It may be seen that the application of 
this method gives a possible range of scores for any test item from a theoreti- 
cal +4 to 4, with, many possible intervening scores expressed either integral- 
ly or decimally. 

ARE THE TESTS VALID? 

Probably the most important single measure of the value of a test is the de- 
gree of validity possessed by it. Since the validity of the facts secured depends 
upon the validity of the measure used to obtain them, it is obviously true that 

** We are indebted to Professor Ralph W. Tyler, of the Bureau of Educational Re- 
search, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, for the method of scoring described 
here. 



326 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

if a test does not measure what it purports to measure, the facts obtained 
through its use are worthless for their purpose. Unfortunately, it is impossi- 
ble, or at least extremely difficult, to prove conclusively by direct methods 
that a test does or does not measure that which it is intended to measure. 

Two difficulties were encountered in determining the validity of the tests. 
The first lay in the conditions attending the testing of adults, discussed in 
chapter iii. The second lay in obtaining a suitable criterion with which to cor- 
relate the results of the tests constructed for use in the study. Since it is sel- 
dom possible to carry on an extensive testing program with adults, it was 
necessary to use the time allowed for the investigation to the best advantage. 
Whatever test was taken as a criterion had of necessity to be brief. Further- 
more, the heterogeneity of the groups tested demanded that the test should 
have norms for different adult levels of ability. An additional requisite was 
that the criterion measure the same aspect of comprehension as was measured 
by the tests constructed in this study. 

The Monroe Standardized Silent Reading Test, although not altogether 
satisfactory, seemed to fit best the conditions of the situation. Since but four 
minutes are required to take the test, it could be administered on the same 
occasion as the Adult Reading Test. Moreover, the Monroe test is so con- 
structed that the various forms of Test I can be used for grades 3, 4, and 5; 
those of Test II, for grades 6, 7, and 8; and forms of Test III, for grades 9 to 12. 
The scores on all the tests can then be transmuted to a common basal scale, 
represented by "B" Scores, which designate the grade level achieved in 
reading. 

The aspect of comprehension measured by the Monroe test is the ability to 
secure information from reading content, 33 The ability is indicated by under- 
lining or writing words according to directions. In the Adult Reading Test, 
comprehension is measured by the ability to grasp the general sense of 
what is read in the form of a summary statement. This ability was assumed to 
depend in a degree upon the ability to obtain specific information. A measure 
of the one ability, therefore, was believed to give a measure of the other. It is 
clear that the aspect of comprehension measured by the Monroe test is not the 
same as that measured by the Adult Reading Test. Whatever conclusions are 
presented regarding the validity of the latter test are made with certain reser- 
vations. 

In the first place, a single criterion may give accurate evidence of validity 
of the test with which it is correlated only if the criterion itself is valid. No 
data are available pertaining to the validity of the Monroe test for testing 
reading comprehension of adults, although some evidence has been compiled 
relative to its validity at lower levels. Pressey, for example, found that com- 
prehension, as measured by the Monroe test, correlated .27 with teachers' 
estimates of reading ability by a pooled rating. However, the validity of 
teachers* estimates as criteria was unknown. 2 -* Gates secured evidence of 

3 * Walter S. Monroe, "Monroe's Standardized Silent Reading Tests," Journal of 
Educational Psychology, IX (June, 1918), 303-12. 

3 S. L. Pressey and L. W. Pressey, "The Relative Value of Rate and Comprehension 
Scores in Monroe's Silent Reading Test, as Measures of Reading Ability," School and 
Society, XI (June 19, 1920), 747-49- 



APPENDIXES 327 

greater validity by correlating the Monroe test with a series of other standard- 
ized reading tests. 25 He found a mean relationship of .72 with the Burgess Pic- 
ture Supplement Test, of .60 with the Thorndike-McCall Reading Test, and 
of .75 with the composite comprehension tests, when correlations were based 
on scores for grades 3-6. He concluded that the correlation of .60 with the 
Thorndike-McCall test might be accounted for by the fact that each measures 
a quite different type of comprehension or measures it in a different way. 
Traxler's comparative study of the reading ability of junior high-school stu- 
dents indicated a relationship of .66 between the Monroe Standardized Silent 
Reading Test and the paragraph-meaning part of the Stanford Achievement 
Test; and a correlation of .56 between comprehension on the Monroe test and 
the Thorndike-McCall.* 6 Evidence presented from these studies indicates 
that comprehension, as measured by the Monroe test, is not closely related 
with comprehension, as measured by other standardized tests, for lower levels 
of ability. 

A second reservation that needs to be made in interpreting the data pre- 
sented in this section has already been indicated. Low correlation between 
comprehension tests may be caused not by low validity but by the different 
aspects of comprehension which they measure. Correlations between the 
Monroe test and the Adult Reading Test, therefore, only qualifiedly indicate 
validity. 

Comprehension scores of 756 adults were secured for the Monroe test and 
for both forms of the Adult Reading Test. The scores made on the first were 
then correlated with the scores made on Form I and Form 2 of the second. 
Table LXXIX presents the coefficients of correlation obtained for twelve 
combinations of groups. 27 It may be noted that in this table, evening-school 
groups, numbered i, 2, and 3, were taken together, as were parent-teacher 
organizations, number 20 and 21, and other groups of a relatively homogeneous 
composition. While all but one coefficient of correlation, shown in Table 
LXXIX, are positive and significant, being more than four times their prob- 
able errors, they are not high enough to indicate close agreement between the 
two tests. Although the disparity in relationship may be due in part to the 

*s Arthur I, Gates, "An Experimental and Statistical Study of Reading and Reading 
Tests," Journal of Educational Psychology, XII (November, 1921), 445-64. 

36 Arthur Edwin Traxler, "The Measurement and Improvement of Silent Reading 
at the Junior-High-School Level" (Unpublished Doctor's dissertation, Department of 
Education, University of Chicago, 1932), p 85. 

a * Group numbers refer respectively to: Dante Adult Day School; Englewood Eve- 
ning School; J. Sterling Morton Evening School; Glenn Street Evening School; Berea 
Foundation Junior High School; Agricultural and Mechanical Arts Model School, grade 
7; the A and M Model School, grade 8; the A and M Model Junior High School, 
grade 9; the A and M Model Senior High School, grade 10; the A and M Model 
Senior High School, grade 1 1; the A and M Model Senior High School, grade 1 2; Berea 
Academy; Martha Berry Senior High School, grade 9; Martha Berry Senior High 
School, grades 11-12; Rabun-Gap Nacoochee Mountain School, grade 10; Rabun-Gap 
Nacoochee Mountain School, grade II; Berea College; Martha Berry College, Fresh- 
men; Martha Berry College, Juniors ;Hinsdale Parent- teachers' Association; and Con- 
gress Park Parent-teachers' Association. 



3*8 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



unreliability of both tests, it is probable that they test somewhat different 
abilities. The fact that working times are very different in the two tests may 
also influence their validity. Since the Monroe test was administered before 
the Adult Reading Test, and since it is a timed test, it undoubtedly had the 
disadvantage. This seems likely in the case of adults who had never before 
taken a new-type test and for whose groups the validity was especially low. 

Another means used to determine the extent of agreement between the two 
tests was in connection with the selection of "poorest" and "best" readers. 

TABLE LXXIX 

CORRELATIONS BETWEEN SCORES ON FORMS i AND 2 OF THE ADULT READING 
TEST AND THE MONROE STANDARDIZED SILENT READING TEST* 





FORM i 






FORM 2 




Group 


Number 
of Cases 


r P.E. 


Group 


Number 
of Cases 


r P.E. 


4 f . 


17 


6n 


ic. 16 . . 


AJQ 


. 64.0 4- 062 


jr. 1 6 


4.O 


. <QI + .060 


4T 


17 


.C-d.7 


2O, 21 


83 


.4.08+ .oc6 


2O. 21 


8Q 


.4.CQ4- .OCQ 


C . . . . 


QO 


4.86+ OCA 


r 


QO 


A7A"t OC8 


j 
Q, IO, II 


77 


.4?8 .061 


12 


yw 
Q7 


4.1 Q 4* OC7 


I 2. 1 


67 


4.27 + 068 


TO 


A A 


orr-h 088 


10 


44. 


.AI7-I- .084. 


M 

18. IQ , 


8q 


7CO+ 062 


6,7, 8 


48 


.T7Q+ .084. 


14. T 


14. 


726 


18. IQ 


So 


. 7?<-fc 06? 


I* 2. 7 


67 


7O8+ O7C 


I4Y 


14 


.772 


Q ICX II ... 


77 


267+ .074. 


17 


qB 


*W" 

.2OC + OO2 


17 


08 


2C2+ 067 


ia 


07 


.276-!- .067 


6, 7, 8 


y u 

4-8 


.182+ .OQC 















. eit., pp. 66, 83. 
f Probable errors for these groups were not computed because of the small number of cases. 

When the "B" Scores obtained on the Monroe test by 756 adults were distribu- 
ted, it was found that of the 190 adultswho ranked below ^ x on the Adult Read- 
ing Test, 109, or about 58 per cent of the group, ranked below j^ on the Monroe 
test. Of the 191 who ranked above ^ 3 on the Adult Reading Test, 98, or about 
52 per cent of the group, ranked above ^ 3 on the Monroe test. This fact shows 
that '^poorest" and "best" readers on one test tended to be so designated on 
the other, but again the agreement is not significant enough to indicate more 
than positive relationship between the two tests. 

The validity of test items. In the selection of test items for a test intended 
to measure a particular ability, one of the primary concerns of the test-maker 
is to secure individual items that are valid or discriminating. The discriminat- 
ing power of a single test item refers to the degree to which success on that 
item by itself indicates possession of the ability which is being measured. An 



APPENDIXES 329 

item may be said to be perfect in discriminating power, when every individual 
who scores successfully on the item ranks higher on a scale of ability than any 
individual who fails the item. An item is said to have zero discriminating pow- 
er when there is no systematic difference between the ability of the individuals 
who succeed on the item and those who fail. Items of all degrees of discrimina- 
tion may be found between the extremes of perfect and zero discriminating 
power. 38 

Many suggestions are given in the literature of test construction relative to 
procedures for measuring the "goodness** of a single item. They range all the 
way from bi-serial r, which shows the relationship between success or non- 
success on the item and the criterion measured, to makeshift devices, which 
may approximate an accurate estimate of '"goodness." Although bi-serial r 
gives the best index of the discriminating power of test items, since it is based 
upon all the data from a group, it has the disadvantage of complexity of calcu- 
lation not found in empirical methods. 

In the present study the procedure used was adapted from a simple one 
used in a study by Traxler at the suggestion of Professor Karl J. Holzinger, 29 
Two assumptions were made. The first has already been made in this investi- 
gation. If the test papers of a group are divided into three classes, comprising 
the highest 25 per cent, the middle 50 per cent, and the lowest 25 per cent of 
the total scores, then the students in the upper 25 per cent are relatively su- 
perior and those in the lower 25 per cent are relatively inferior readers (provid- 
ed that the entire test is valid). In the present study these two classes of read- 
ers have been designated, respectively, as ^best*' and "poorest" readers. The 
second assumption was that if a single test item is valid, that is, if it has dis- 
criminating power, most of the "best" readers will answer it correctly and 
most of the "'poorest*' readers will answer it incorrectly. Since every test item 
in this investigation was given some value, ranging from +4 to 4, "best* 1 
readers should receive higher scores on a discriminating item than "poorest** 
readers. 

In the following formula, adapted from Traxler's study, the terms and 
their interpretations have been fitted to the conditions of this study: 30 



8 E. F. Lindquist and Walter W. Cook, "Experimental Procedures in Test Evalua- 
tion," Journal of Experimental Education, I (March, 1933), 163-85. 

a > Traxler, op. cit.> p. 85. 

3 The original formula, based on definitely designated right (R) and wrong (W) re- 
sponses of the upper () and lower (/) 25 per cent of the readers, was stated: 



~ N 

ibid. y p. 88. 



33 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



in which V is the validity of the test items, $b is the actual score of "best" 
readers, D& is the difference between the possible score and the actual score of 
"best" readers, S P is the actual score of "poorest" readers, D p is the difference 
between the possible score and the actual score of "poorest" readers, and T is 
the total possible score of "best" and "poorest" readers. 

By this formula the index of discrimination may vary from +1.00 for the 
item with highest discriminating power to i.oo for the item with lowest dis- 
criminating power. An item which is answered as well by "poorest" read- 
ers as by "best" readers has an index of validity of "o." 

The V of each of the twenty-four test items in Forms i and 2 of the Adult 
Reading Test is shown in Table LXXX. The entries indicate that all of the 

TABLE LXXX 

VALIDITY OF THE ITEMS IN FORMS i AND 2 
OF THE ADULT READING TEST 



Item 


Formi 


Forma 


Item 


Form i 


Form 2 


I 


666 


T7C 


13 


600 


642 


2 


.4^C 


'of j 
.617 


14. 


v ^y 

. ceo 


* U T 

.-108 


-J 


.7OC 


."ta7 


1C 


c64 


. CO7 


A 


.440 


4OC 


16 


C77 


67O 


f 


.484 


CO I 


17 .... 


647 


606 


i 


4.28 


788 


18 . 


8T* 


86c 


7 


6l7 


4Q2 


IQ 


610 


j 
6c8 


8 


.564 


Vy* 
.2Q7 


2O 


.602 


.7ar 


Q 


.652 


.606 


21 


.68c 


.701 


10 


.86? 


.4.IO 


22 


.74.0 


.T77 


II .. 


.607 


.760 


2? 


.671 


.776 


12 . 


.8oc 


co6 


24. 


712 


.6 co 















items have considerable validity, ranging for Form i from .867 to .428; and for 
Form a from .865 to .297. There was generally a marked difference between 
the performance of the "best" readers and the "poorest" readers. Exceptions 
may be noted in the case of items near the beginning of the tests, which were 
intended to be so easy as to be comprehended by all adult readers. That one 
item did not prove this easy is shown by the relatively high V for Item i, 
Form i. Since this item was selected because it contained a low percentage of 
elements of difficulty, a low ^was anticipated. A probable explanation for the 
unexpected discriminating power of the item is the fact that the choice of the 
best response required, in addition to reading comprehension, the ability to 
calculate in mathematical terms from the content of the item that "I spent 
about five months making a boat I needed out of a big tree*" An analysis, of 
responses to this item seemed to indicate that "poorest" readers failed to check 
the best response, for the reason just given. 



APPENDIXES 331 

The cause of the lowest V in each test seemed apparent after critical analy- 
sis. In Form I, the lowest V> .428, was found for Item Number 6, a selection 
from the Bible. It appeared from the comparative comprehension of "best" 
and "poorest" readers that familiarity with the passage had tended to reduce 
its discriminating power. The lowest ^in Form a, .297, was found for Item 
Number 8. Examination of the responses to this item indicated that the unin- 
tentional introduction of a "catch" word in the poorest response invalidated 
the item. The poorest response was "A little linseed oil gives a gloss to the 
feathers of a canary/' The "catch" word 0/7 was ignored by all readers, with 
the result that "'best'* readers tended to fail in seeing that the response was 
wrong about as often as ''poorest" readers. With the exception of these 
items, the items in both tests showed generally rather high discriminating 
power. 

ARE THE TESTS RELIABLE INSTRUMENTS FOR 
MEASURING ADULT COMPREHENSION? 

The second most important fact which must be known about a test is the 
degree of reliability it possesses. Before producing evidence to show how well 
the adult reading tests measure whatever they do measure, we will briefly sum- 
marize the means used in the development of the tests to provide for re- 
liability. 

Objectivity of scoring. If a test is perfectly objective, that is, if answers 
which are given credit are sharply defined in a key, and only those answers 
given credit, one factor of influence on reliability may be eliminated. In the 
present investigation, it should be recalled, all answers were given some credit, 
on the assumption that particular numerical values assigned to test responses 
provide a satisfactory scale for measuring the degree to which readers have 
attained the objectives measured by the tests. In order to reduce the influence 
of personal judgment in scoring, composite evaluations were secured for each 
response from a number of trained judges. That a high reliability of evalua- 
tion was obtained by these judges has been shown by coefficients of reliability 
ranging from ,994 to .970. By the use of a scoring stencil, on which each re- 
sponse was marked with its estimated value, subjectivity of scoring was re- 
duced to a minimum. 

Character of sampling included in the test items. Other things being equal, 
the more extensive the sampling the more reliable the test. In an attempt to 
increase the reliability of the measure, sample paragraphs were taken from a 
wide sampling of books, magazines, and newspapers, and as many of these 
were included in each test as could be reasonably answered by adults of limited 
reading ability in a testing period of one hour, 

The reliability of the tests. Data concerning the reliability of the tests de- 
veloped in this investigation are presented in Table LXXXI. These data were 
obtained from the scores of 756 adults, who took both forms of the test. The 
correlations between Forms i and 2 varied from .779 for evening-school groups 
to .481 for colored groups in the A and M Junior High School. The mean 
coefficient of reliability was not calculated, nor was the coefficient of reliability 



33* 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



for the entire 756 subjects, since it may be materially affected by the hetero- 
geneity of the total population from which the data were collected. 

An interpretation of coefficients of reliability without recognition of the 
range of talent represented in the data from which they were computed is apt 
to be misleading. This consequence was avoided by measuring the variability 
of the differences between the obtained scores and the corresponding theoreti- 

TABLE LXXXI 

RELIABILITY COEFFICIENTS, STANDARD DEVIATIONS, PROBABLE ERRORS OF 

SCORES, AND RATIOS BETWEEN THE PROBABLE ERRORS AND STANDARD 

DEVIATIONS OF SCORES ON ADULT READING TESTS* 



Group 


r P.E. 


(Tx 


<T2 


P.-E.Score 


wwx 


I. 2. 7 


770 + O72 


22 7C 


17. 7O 


6.41 




5 


778+ O28 


22. 1C 


18.40 


6-4< 


^2 


15,16 


777+ Od.8 


j 
17. 7C 


i6.ic 


v -*h3 

C.86 


TC 


14 


.7OO 


A / * /j 
21 .70 


*J 
19.63 


7.63 


Jj 
17 


10 


6oi oci 


22 Q< 


22. 6c 


8.cc 


77 


2O, 21 


.666+ .041 


II 1C 


1C. 1C 


u j j 


.7Q 


17 




17 OO 


I2.QO 


c 23 


.70 


(v 10. 1 1 


co6 + oci 


I8.IC 


12 Q2 


6.66 


.4.7 




.567 


10. ^O 


1 o fg 


7. 7O 


.44. 


18* IQ 


. C7Q + .oco 


y x 

17. oC 


1C. 40 


7-<7 


,46 


12 




K.4O 


12. 2O 


6.46 


.47 


6 7, 8 


.481 .O7C 


14. 4.C 




6 66 


40 















* Coefficients of correlation and standard deviations are quoted from Cleary, op. cit., p. 84. 

cal true scores. The median deviation of the differences or the probable error 
of the scores was obtained by the formula: 31 



in which - represents the average standard deviations for Forms I and 2, 

and TI/ represents the correlation of Forms i and 2. 

Table LXXXI shows the probable error of the scores of different groups 
used in finding the correlation coefficients which are shown in the same table. 
The first probable error of 6.41 means that there is an even chance that a score 
made by an evening-school student on the test is within 6.41 points of his true 
score. For example, if an individual made a score of 68.9, the chances are even 



a 1 G. M. Ruch, The Objective or New-Type Examination (Chicago: Scott, Foresman 
& Co., 1 929), p. 430. 



APPENDIXES 333 

that the average of his scores obtained from an infinite number of test forms 
would lie between 62.5 and 75.3. Since the highest scores obtainable on Forms 
i and 2 are, respectively, 92.2 and 91.4, the probable errors do not seem dis- 
proportionately large. The ratio of the probable errors to the standard devia- 
tions is between one-third and two-fifths for most groups. 

Since no data from other adult tests are available for comparative purposes, 
no conclusions can be drawn with respect to the relative reliability of the adult 
reading tests developed in this study. That the reliability of the tests is hardly 
high enough to be considered entirely satisfactory must be granted, since 
they fall within the category defined by Ruch as "rather low." 32 

3* Ibid., p. 434. 



APPENDIX D 



As stated in chapter iv, the identification of elements of difficulty depended 
on the correlation between the occurrence of the elements in a series of test 
items and the average reading score "made by adult readers on those items. 
The method of tabulating individual scores and of obtaining average scores is 
described in the following paragraphs. 



TABULATION OF SCORES 



Two procedures were followed in tabulating scores* One provided a com- 
pact record of each subject's scores for both test forms; the other afforded a 



Form 

2 


- 




I 




</ o 


O 




> 


/ 


V 






O 








V 


3 






V 


o 




Item No. 
15 omit- 
ted from 
Form 2. 


45 




3.8 






3-3 






3-8 






3.9 






3-9 




S. Mor. 
N. Sch. 


D 
Cles 




M 








M 




h 


o 










M- 


o 


1 




V 


iner 




Z .9 




|l.S 






3.0 






3.9 








4-o 




21 


W 


35 


99* 4,3 




1 


3 1 "^ 




o 




>/ 


o 


1 M 






o 




|v 


1 1 








2.4 






3-0 






3-7 






I. 


D 








M 


7 


6.7 


8 






V 




o 




o| |V| 





M 








o|v| 


v| | 


1 




3.7 






3-7 






3-7 






4.0 






2.7 




3 


3 


58.0 




V 


< 


D 






o 


V 




1 












1 


1 ! 1 






2.O 






-. 























FIG. 32. Tabulating card for recording individual test scores. 

Data recorded at the left are read down: Column I reads as follows: Sterling Mor- 
ton Evening School, Student Number 21, white, male, age 35, last grade in school, 8, 
attendance at nignt school, 3 years, 3 months. Column II reads as follows: average read- 
ing per day, 45 minutes; occupation, dry cleaner; Monroe test, rate 99 J, "B" score 4.3; 
comprehension 7, "B" score 6.7; total score on Form 2, 58.0. 

Data recorded in other columns are read across as follows: score on first item, 3.8; 
on second item, 3.3; on third item, 3.8; and so on. Blank spaces indicate items not at- 
tempted. 

means of determining average scores on all items of a test for a particular group. 
The first procedure involved the use of tabulating cards, one for each person 
for each test. These cards were made of tag-board, f^XS", for convenient 
filing. Data from the test booklets were entered on the card according to 
definite spatial arrangement. Personal information furnished by the subject on 
the cover-page of his test booklet was entered on the left side of the card, and a 

334 



APPENDIXES 



335 



duplication of his checked responses for each item was indicated in the spaces 
provided in the main body of the card. 

Figure 32 is^a copy of one subject's record for Form 2. In making such a 
record, the subject's responses were first copied directly from his test booklet, 
by marking " V " and "o" in the spaces corresponding to the response order in 
the booklet. All test booklets could then be filed, and the cards substituted for 
further use. A stencil was designed to fit over the card, showing the value of 

TABLE LXXXII 

CRITERIA OF DIFFICULTY FOR ITEMS ON FORM i, REPRESENTED BY THE AVERAGE 
SCORE OF ALL READERS, "BEST" READERS, AND "POOREST" READERS 



TEST 
ITEM 


AVERAGE READING 
SCORE 


TEST 
ITEM 


AVERAGE READING SCORE 


All 
Read- 
ers 


"Best" 
Read- 
ers 


"Poor- 
est" 
Read- 
ers 


All 
Readers 


"Best" 
Readers 


"Poorest" 

Readers 


i 


2.6 

2 -3 

2,1 
2.6 

a -5 
3- 

2.6 

2.2 
2.0 
2. 4 
2.1 

i-9 


3-7 
3-o 
3-3 
3-a 
3-a 
3-7 
3-8 

3-a 
3,o 
3-8 
3-3 

3-4 


i.i 

T -5 
0-5 
i-S 
i-5 

2.0 

i-3 

1,0 

0.6 

0.4 
0.7 

0.2 


T7 


2.4 
a-3 
M 
i-9 

a- 5 
i-9 
2.4 

2.1 

*-9 

2.0 

i-9 

*-7 


3-4 
3-i 

3-4 

2.8 

3-6 
3-4 
3- a 
3-3 
3- 2 
3-5 
3- 1 
3-2 


i.i 

I.O 
1.2 

o-7 

I.O 
O.I 

0.9 

-7 
0.6 

o-5 
0.7 
o. 4 


a 


14 


^ . 


1C 




16 


r 


17 


I:::::' 


18 


7 


IQ 


8 


2O 




21 


IO 


22 


II 

12 


2T . 


Id. . 






Ranee. 


3.0-1.7 
2.2 .070 
5io .050 


3.8-2,8 
3.3+. 066 
-480 .047 


2.00.1 

o.9 .058 

.424* .041 


Mean . 


S.D 





each response in all paragraphs. It was then possible to make rapid calcula- 
tion of the score for each test item by remembering the formula: o minus V =* 
score. The score for each item was then entered in the proper space, as shown 
in Figure 32, By adding algebraically all scores on the card, the total test 
score was obtained and entered at the bottom of Column 2. Although consid- 
able labor was expended on the card tabulations, it appeared to be justified by 
the convenience of compact records. 

COMPUTING AVERAGE READING SCORES 

The purpose of finding average scores was to obtain a criterion of difficulty 
for each test item that might be used in determining elements of difficulty 



33 6 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



within the item. According to the plan described in chapter iv, a criterion of 
difficulty was obtained for each item for all readers, for "best" readers and for 
"poorest" readers. "Best" readers were those individuals whose combined 
scores on Forms I and 2 of the Adult Reading Test were above the third quar- 
tile. This group numbered 191. "Poorest" readers were those whose combined 
scores on the two test forms fell below the first quartile. One hundred ninety 
individuals were identified as "poorest" readers among the twenty-one groups 
tested. 

TABLE LXXXIII 

CRITERIA OF DIFFICULTY FOR ITEMS ON FORM 2, REPRESENTED BY THE AVERAGE 
SCORE OF ALL READERS, "BEST" READERS, AND "POOREST" READERS 



TEST 
ITEM 


AVERAGE READING 
SCORE 


TEST 
ITEM 


AVERAGE READING SCORE 


All 
Read- 
ers 


"Best" 
Read- 
ers 


"Poor- 
est" 
Read- 
ers 


All 
Readers 


"Best" 
Readers 


"Poorest" 
Readers 


i 


2.9 

2.6 

2.4 

2.6 
2.8 
2.6 

i-3 

0.8 

2.6 

3- 
i-3 
a -5 


3-5 
3-5 
3-2 

3- a 
3-5 
3-* 
*$ 

1.2 

3-| 
3-6 

2.8 

3-2 


2.1 
1.2 

i-7 
1.6 

M 
'-7 
-5 

O.I 

i.i 

2.0 
0.2 

*-3 


TO . ... 


a-3 
i-S 

2.6 

1.8 
i-9 

2.2 

i-5 
i-3 
0.9 
0.7 
1.8 
1.8 


3-3 
2-3 
3-3 
3-o 
3-o 
3-7 
3-i 
3-i 
2.7 
1.6 
3-a 
3-3 


I.O 

0.9 

'5 

o-S 
-5 

0.2 

o-3 

O.I 
~O.I 
0.2 

-3 

0.7 


2 




^ . . 




1C 




16 


4. 
5 


17 


6 


18 


7 ... 


IQ. 


8 


2O . 




21 



10 


22 


11 


20 


12 ... 


24 






Ranee 


2.9-0.7 
2.o.097 
.707+. 069 


3-7- 1 - 2 
3--95 
693 .067 


2.1 0.2 

o.9.o87 
.6331.062 


Mean , 


SJD 





In finding the three sets of average scores, three sets of master-sheets were 
prepared. One recorded individual scores on each test item for each of 759 
readers. The other two contained individual scores on each item for each 
"best" and "poorest" reader, respectively. Average reading scores on each 
item were then calculated for the three groups, as shown in Tables LXXXII, 
and LXXXIII. These scores are the criteria of difficulty used in identifying 
elements of difficulty shown in chapter iv. 



APPENDIX E 

In Table LXXXIV are listed the coefficients of correlation obtained by 
correlating the forty-four elements of difficulty with the average reading score 
of three classes of readers and with each other. 



337 




:M 1 * 

r, ^Q P P EJ 

8t-3-3-3 

I S < 3 < 3o-5|S-S-og~S J a&g'S&^'S'S'S 

ft 1 " ^ f SJ^ 



g 6 




TABLI 



CORRELATIONS OF ELEME 


AVERAGE REAPING SCORES 


Average 
Reading 
Scone 


Average Reading Scan 


Element* of 


AT 


Ao 


Af 




B 


C 


D 


E 


F 


G 


H 


I 


J 


K 


L 


M 


N 





P 


Q 


R 


S 


T 


AT 
















































As 


9538 














































AF 


8&17 


4786 












































Elements 
















































6 


18ZS 


0514 


1678 










































C 


0695 


0038 


0933 




1563 






































G> 


-W53 


1977 


-1530 




-1774 


1777 




































E 


-Z349 


-1(95 


2853 




0397 


05&5 


I7C5 


































F 


1463 


0452 


1268 




1637 


<X>i9 


0316 


0236 
































G 


Z6IZ 


1753 


2323 




0616 


1251 


;040I 


0917 


200 






























H 


-tut 


-1733 


2323 




0616 


ies\ 


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131 



APPENDIX F 

Table LXXXV shows the predicted difficulty of 350 books, obtained by 
the regression equation for variables 1.25678, described on page 138 of chap- 
ter iv. Difficulty is expressed in terms of the average comprehension score 
that adults of limited reading ability would probably make if tested on the 
material. As in the case of true scores obtained by actual testing, high pre- 
dicted scores indicate selections easily comprehended, and low scores, selec- 
tions difficult to comprehend. 

A graphical presentation of the books listed here appears in Figure 23, 
chapter vi. 

TABLE LXXXV 

PREDICTED DIFFICULTY or 350 BOOKS 

Predicted 

No. Book Index of 

Difficulty 

1. Abraham, Robert Morrison. Winter Night's Entertainments; a 
Book of Pastimes for Everybody. Dutton, 1933 1 . 1 1 

2. Adams, H. C. Travelers 9 Tales. Boni, 1927 54 

3. Adams, James Truslow. The Epic of America. Little, 1931 ... .15 

4. Adams, Randolph G. The Gateway to American History. Little, 

I9 2 7 87 

5. Adams, Randolph G. Pilgrims, Indians and Patriots. Little, 

1928 : 87 

6. Aitchison, Allison, and Uttley, Marguerite. Across Seven Seas 

to Seven Continents. Bobbs, 1925 93 

7. Akeley, Carl E. In Brightest Africa. Garden City, 1923 82 

8. Alcott, Louisa M. Little Women. Little, 1915 42. 

9. Aldrich, Bess Streeter. A Lantern in Her Hand. Apple ton, 1928 .86 

10. Allen, Frederick Lewis. Only Yesterday. Harper, 1931 06 

11. Anderson, Robert Gordon. Those Quarrelsome Bonapartes* 
Century, 1927 52 

12. Andrews, Margaret Lockwood. The Complete Book of Parties. 
Funk, 1932 . 88 

13. Andrews, Mary R. S. The Perfect Tribute. Scribner, 1912 74 

14. Anthony, Katherine. Queen Elizabeth* Knopf, 1929 86 

15. Antin, Mary. At School in the Promised Land. Hough ton, 1911 .86 

1 6. Antin, Mary. The Promised Land. Houghton, 1912 86 

17. Arliss, George. Up the Years from Bloomsbury; an Autobiog- 
raphy. Little, 1928 46 

1 8. Auslander, Joseph, and Hill, F. E. The Winged Horse. Double- 
day, 1928 92 

339 



340 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

TABLE LXXXV Continued 

Predicted 

No. Book Index of 

Difficulty 

19. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Grosset, 1931 46 

20. Austin, Mary. The Land of Journey s Ending. Century, 1924. . .23 

21. Bailey, Temple. Contrary Mary. Grosset, 1914 1 .03 

22. Balzac, Honor6 de. P$re Goriot. Little, 1931 38 

23. Banks, Helen Ward. The Story of Mexico. Stokes, 1926 40 

24. Barnes, Gerald. Swimming and Diving. Scribner, 1922 55 

25. Barnes, James. Drake and His Yeomen. Macmillan, 1899 69 

26. Barnes, Parker T. House Plants, and How To Grow Them. 
Doubleday, 1909 88 

27. Barryrnore, John. Confessions of an Actor. Bobbs, 1926 62 

28. Harriett, Robert A. The Log of Bob Bartlett. Putnam, 1928 ... .86 

29. Barton, Bruce. What Can a Man Believe? Bobbs, 1927 86 

30. Bates, Sylvia Chatfield. Moby Dick (adapted). Scribner, 1928 .75 

31. Bauer, M,, and Peyser, E. How Music Grew. Putnam, 1925. . .57 

32. Beach, Rex. The Silver Horde. Burt, 1909 82 

33. Beals, Carleton. Brimstone and Chili; a Book of Personal Ex- 
periences in the Southwest and in Mexico. Knopf, 1927 41 

34. Beard, Annie E. S. Our Foreign-Born Citizens. Crowell, 1922. . .65 

35. Becker, May Lamberton. Adventures in Reading. Stokes, 1927 ,62 

36. Becker, May Lamberton. Books as Windows. Stokes, 1929. . . .57 

37. Beraud, Henri. Twehe Portraits of the French Revolution. Little, 

1928 53 

38. Berge, Victor, and Lanier, Henry. Pearl Diver; Adventuring 

over and under Southern Seas. Doubleday, 1930 52 

39. Birkhead, Alice. The Story of the French Revolution. Crowell, 

19^3 65 

40. Bok, Edward. The Americanization of Edward Bok; an Auto- 
biography. Scribner, 1921 83 

41. Borup, George. A Tenderfoot with Peary. Stokes, 1911 63 

42. Bowers, Claude G. The Tragic Era. Houghton, 1929 19 

43. Bowrnan, Charles Ellis, and Percy, A. L. Fundamentals of Book- 
keeping and Business. American Book, 1926 i .07 

44. Boswell, James. The Life of Samuel Johnson. Modern Library, 

1931 23 

45. Boyd, James* Marching On. Scribner, 1927 74 

46. Bridgman, George. Constructive Anatomy. Bridgman, 1920. . , 1.08 

47. Brigham, Louise. Box Furniture. Century, 1910 1.24 

48. Bromfield, Louis. The Green Bay Tree. Stokes, 1924 69 

49. Browne, Lewis. Stranger Than Fiction. Macmillan, 1925 67 

50. Bryan, George S. Edison; the Man and His Work. Knopf, 1926 .54 

51. Buck, Pearl S. The Good Earth. Day, 1931 81 

52. Bullen, Frank T. The Cruise of the Cachalot. International 
Book, 1899 24 



APPENDIXES 341 

TABLE LXKX.V Continued 

Predicted 

No. Book Index of 

Difficulty 

53. Burnham, Smith. Our Beginnings in Europe and America, Win- 
ston, 1918 90 

54. Burns, Walter Noble. The Saga of Billy the Kid. Doubleday, 

1926 58 

55. Burns, Walter Noble. Tombstone. Doubleday, 1927 69 

56. Burt, Emily Rose. Planning Your Party. Harper, 1927 86 

57. Byrd, Richard E. Skyward. Cornwall, 1928 49 

58. Canfield, Dorothy. The Deepening Stream. Harcourt, 1930. . . .62 

59. Cantor, Eddie. My Life Is in Your Hands. Harper, 1928 63 

60. Carnegie, Dale. Lincoln the Unknown. Century, 1932 76 

61 . Carroll, Gladys Hasty. As the Earth Turns. Macmillan, 1933 . . .86 

62. Cary, Katharine T., and Merrell, Nellie D. Arranging Flowers 
throughout the Year. Dodd, 1933 54 

63. Casey, Robert J. The Lost Kingdom of Burgundy. Century, 

!9*3 59 

64. Casey, Robert J. Four Faces of Siva. Bobbs, 1929 56 

65. Gather, Willa Sibert. The Song of the Lark. Houghton, 1915. . .82 

66. Cendrars, Blaise. Suiters Gold. Harper, 1926 73 

67. Center, Stella Stewart. The Worker and His Work. Lippincott, 

1926 48 

68. Chambers, Robert W. Cardigan. Harper, 1901 31 

69. Chase, Stuart. A New Deal. Macmillan, 1932 29 

70. Chekhov, Anton. The Lady with the Dog> and Other Stories. 
Macmillan, 1928 68 

71. Churchill, Winston. The Crisis. Macmillan, 1901 87 

72. Churchill, Winston. Richard Carvel. Grosset, 1914 67 

73. Clark, Barrett H. How To Produce Amateur Plays. Little, 

1921 72 

74. Clark, Keith. The Spell of Spain. Page, 1914 65 

75. Claudy, C H. The First Book of Photography. McBride, 1918 .76 

76. Coffin, Charles Carleton. The Boys of '76. Harper, 1876 82 

77. Coffin, Charles H. How To Study Pictures. Century, 1918 43 

78. Collins, A. Frederick. The Book of the Microscope. Appleton, 

i9 2 3 7 1 

79. Colum, Padraic. Cross-Roads in Ireland. Macmillan, 1930. . . .94 

80. Conner, Ralph. The Sky Pilot. Revell, 1899 84 

81. Connolly, James B. The Book of the Gloucester Fishermen. Day, 

1927 84 

82. Cooper, Courtney Ryley. Go North, Young Man! Little, 1929 .32 

83. Davies, Blodwen. Romantic Quebec. Dodd, 1932 56 

84. Davis, William Stearns. A Friend of Caesar. Macmillan, 1922 .53 

85. Davis, William Stearns. Life in Elizabethan Days. Harper, 

193 33 



342 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

TABLE LXXXV Continued 

Predicted 

No. Book Index of 

Difficulty 

86. Daudet, Alphonse. Tartarin of Tarascon. Little, 1927 44 

87. Deeping, Warwick. Sorrett and Son. Knopf, 1926 71 

88. D'Esque, Jean Louis. A Count in theFo'csle. Brentano's, 1932 . 87 

89. Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. Scott, Foresman, 1913. (Un- 
altered from sixth edition, 1722.) . 26 

90. DeKruif, Paul Henry. Microbe Hunters. Harcourt, 1926 70 

91. Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield (condensed by R. Graves). 
Harcourt, 1934 85 

92. Dickens, Charles. The Personal History of David Copperfield. 
Burt, n.d 16 

93. Dhnnet, Ernest. The Art of Thinking. Simon, 1928 51 

94. Dix, Mark H. An American Business Adventure; the Story of 
Henry H. Dix. Harper, 1928 59 

95. Doyle, A. Conan. The White Company. Harper, 1894 45 

96. DuChaillu, Paul B. Country of the Dwarfs. Harper, 1928 92 

97. Duguid, Julian. Green Hell. Century, 1931 40 

98. Dumas, Alexandre. The Three Musketeers. McNally, 1923 69 

99. Earhart, Amelia. The Fun of It; Random Records of My Own 
Flying and of Women in Aviation. Putnam, 1932 62 

100. Eaton, Jeanette. A Daughter of the Seine. Harper, 1929 55 

101. Eaton, Jeanette. Young Lafayette. Houghton, 1932 45 

102. Eddy, Clyde. Down the Worlds Most Dangerous River. Stokes, 

J 9 2 9 56 

103. Edwards, Isabel M. Glove-Making. Pitman, 1929 78 

104. Eells, Elsie Spicer. South Americas Story. McBride, 1931 64 

105. Ekrem, Selma. Unveiled; the Autobiography of a Turkish Girl. 
Washburn, 1930 86 

1 06. Eliot, George. Silas Marner (edited by A. E. Hancock). 
Scott, Foresman, 1899 13 

107. Ellis, Anne. tl> Plain Anne Ellis"; More about the Life of an Ordi- 
nary Woman. Houghton, 1931 87 

108. Ellsberg, Edward, On the Bottom. Cornwall Press, 1928 71 

109. Erskine, John. The Delight of Great Books. Bobbs, 1928 55 

1 10. Fairbank, Janet Ayer. The Bright Land. Houghton, 1932 74 

in. Finger, Charles J. Courageous Companions. Longmans, 1929. . .86 

112. Finger, Charles J. David Livingston. Doubleday, 1927 69 

113. Finger, Charles J. Footloose in the West; Being the Account of a 
Journey to Colorado and California and Other Western States. 
Morrow, 1932 58 

114. Ferber, Edna. Cimarron* Grosset, 1929 78 

115. Ferber, Edna. Fanny Herself. Stokes, 1917 82 

116. Ferber, Edna* Show Boat. Grosset, 1926 79 j 



APPENDIXES 343 

TABLE LXXKV Continued 

Predicted 

No. Book Index of 

Difficulty 

117. Ferris, Helen, and Moore, Virginia. Girls Who Did. Button, 

1927 I. oo 

1 1 8. Fierro Blanco, Antonio de. The Journey of the Flame. Hough- 
ton, 1933 40 

119. Fleming, Peter. Brazilian Adventure. Scribner, 1934 55 

no. Forster, Edward M. A Passage to India. Harcourt, 1924 61 

121. Fosdick, Harry Emerson. Twelve Tests of Character. Associa- 
tion Press, 1928 68 

1 22. France, Anatole. The Crime of Sylvestre Eonnard. Harper, 1 890 . 67 

123. Frank, Harry A. A Vagabond Journey around the World. Cen- 
tury, 1920 40 

124. Frank, Leonhard. Carl and Anna (translated into Basic Eng- 
lish by L. W. Lockhart). Trubner, 1930 99 

125. French, George W. Photography for the Amateur* Folk, 1922. . .62 

126. Friese, John F. Farm Blacksmithing. Manual Arts Press, 1921 i . 13 

127. Gardener, Elmer Ellsworth. Better Typewriting. Prentice-Hall, 

1931 ; 75 

128. Garnett, David. Pocahontas. Harcourt, 1933 67 

129. Garretson, Edith May. Home and Health in a New Land. Scrib- 

ner, 1927 i . 57 

130. Gaye, Phoebe Fen wick. Vivandidre! Liveright, 1929 66 

131. Gibbons, John. Afoot in Italy. Dutton, 1932 68 

132. Gibbs, Philip. Since Then; the Disturbing Story of the World at 
Peace. Harper, 1930 39 

133. Gide, Charles. First Principles of Political Economy. Harrap, 

19*2 ; 75 

134. Goldberger, Henry H. America for Coming Citizens. Scribner, 

1922 90 

135. Goldsmith, Oliver. The Vicar of Wakefield. Macmillan, 1922. . .25 

136. Goldstein, H., and Goldstein, V. Art in Everyday Life. Mac- 
millan, 1929 90 

137. Gordon, Jan and Cora. Two Vagabonds in Spain. McBride, 

19^3 7 

138. Gras, Felix. The Reds of the Midi; an Episode of the French Revo- 
lution (translated by C. A. Janvier). Appleton, 1923 71 

139. Grey, Zane. Riders of the Purple Sage. Grosset, 1912 92 

140. Greene, Anne Bosworth. Lighthearted Journey. Century, 1930 .35 

141. Grenfell, Wilfred Thomason. Tales of the Labrador. Houghton, 

1916 66 

142. Groves, Ernest R. and Gladys H. Wholesome Childhood. 
Houghton, 1924. 71 

143. Hammett, Charles Edward. Major Sport Fundamentals. Scrib- 

ner, 1927 , 7 



344 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

TABLE ISS3X Continued 

Predicted 

No. Book Index of 

Difficulty 

144. Hamsun, Knut. Growth of the Soil. Knopf, 1930 91 

145. Harris, Stanley, Baseball How To Play It. Stokes, 1925 97 

146. Hartmanj Gertrude. These United States and How They Came 

To Be. Macmillan, 1932 78 

147. Hathaway, Esse V. The Book of American Presidents. Whit- 
tlesey House, McGraw, 1931 80 

148. Hawks, Frank. Speed. Putnam, 1931 50 

149. Hemon, Louis. Maria Chap delaine. Grosset, 1924 31 

150. Henderson, Rose. Little Journeys in America. Southern, 1923 .54 

151. Henry, O. The Four Million. Doubleday, 1922 70 

152. Heary, Robert Selph. Story of the Confederacy. Garden City, 

W 43 

153. Herdman, Marie Louise. History of the United States. Stokes, 

1916 70 

154. Hervey, Harry. King Cobra; an Autobiography of Travel in 
French Indo-China. Cosmopolitan, 1927 38 

155. Hewitt, Edward Ringwood. Telling on the Trout. Scribner, 1926 .72 

156. Heyward, DuBose. Peter Ashley. Farrar, 1932 73 

157. Heyward, DuBose. Mamba's Daughters. Doubleday, 1929 65 

158. Hibben, Thomas. The Carpenter s Tool Chest. Lippincott, 1933 .98 

159. Hildebrand, Arthur Sturges. Magellan. Harcourt, 1924 62 

160. Hill, Janet McKenzie. The Up-to-Date Waitress. Little, 1922. . ,74 

161. Hindus, Maurice. Red Bread. Smith, 1931 60 

162. Hodgins, Eric, and Magoun, F. A. Sky High; the Story of Avia- 
tion. Little, 1929 58 

163. Hogue, Wayman. Back Yonder; an Ozark Chronicle. Balch, 

*93 2 97 

164. Holdridge, Desmond. Pindorama. Minton, 1933 68 

165. Hough, Emerson. The Covered Wagon. Grosset, 1922 76 

166. Hubbell, Jay B. The Enjoyment of Literature. Macmillan, 1929 .65 

167. Huberman, Leo. 'We, the People" Harper, 1932 68 

168. Hueston, Ethel. Coasting Down East. Dodd, 1924 27 

169. Hulit, Leonard. The Salt-Water Angler. Appleton, 1924 61 

170. Ilin, M. New Russia's Primer; the Story of the Five-Year Plan 
(translated from the Russian by George S. Counts and Nucia P. 
Lodge). Houghton, 1931 97 

171. Ilin, M. What Time Is It? Lapshin, 1932 i .04 

172. Irving, Washington. The Bold Dragoon. Knopf, 1930 56 

173. Irwin, Margaret. Royal Flush; the Story of Minette. Harcourt, 

193* 57 

174. JarTe, Bernard. Crucibles. Simon, 1930 69 

175. James, Bessie R., and James, Marquis. Six Foot Six; the Heroic 
Story of Sam Houston. Bobbs, 1931 83 



APPENDIXES 345 

TABLE LXXXV Continued 

Predicted 

No. Book Index of 

Difficulty 

176. Johnson, Charles H. L. Famous American Athletes of Today. 
Page, 1928 53 

177. Johnson, Martin E. Safari; a Saga of the African Blue. Put- 
nam, 1928 64 

178. Johnston, Marjorie. Domination. Appleton, 1930 38 

179. Judd, Alfred. The Conquest of the Poles; and Modern Adventures 

in the World of Ice. Nelson, 1924 25 

1 80. Kang, Younghill. The Grass Roof. Scribner, 1931 92 

181. Keller, Helen. The Story of My Life (School Edition). Hough- 
ton, 1904 80 

182. Kellock, Harold. Houdini; His Life Story. Harcourt, 1928. .. .55 

183. Kirkpatrick, Frank Home. Public Speaking. Doran, 1923. ... i .22 

1 84. Klein, Paul E. Shoe Repairing. Bruce, 1926 88 

185. Knipe, Alden Arthur. Everybody's Washington. Dodd, 1931. . .60 

1 86. Komroff, Manuel. Coronet. Grosset. 1930 97 

187. Krapp, George Philip. America; the Great Adventure. Knopf, 

19*4 75 

1 88. Kurlbaum, Margarete Siebert. Mary y Ofyteen of Scots (translat- 
ed by Mary A. Hamilton). Harcourt, 1929 53 

189. Lacoste, Jean Rene. Lacoste on Tennis. Morrow, 1928 80 

190. Lamb, Harold. The Crusades. Doubleday, 1930 54 

191. Lang, Andrew. The Conquest of Montezuma's Empire. Long- 
mans, 1928 44 

192. Lavarre, William J. Up the Mazaruni for Diamonds. Jones, 

1922 81 

193. Lawton, Mary. Schumann-Heink y the Last of the Titans. Mac- 
millan, 1928 1.15 

194. Lee, Ettie. Silas Marner (adaptation). Macmillan, 1928 1 .24 

195. Leonard, Jonathan Norton. Loki; the Life of Charles Proteus 
Steinmetz. Doubleday, 1929 76 

196. Lewis, Sinclair. Babbitt. Harcourt, 1922 66 

197. Leys, James Farquarson, Jr After You, Magellan! Century, 

1927 28 

198. Lighty, Kent and Margaret. Shanty-Boat. Century, 1930 60 

199. Lindbergh, Charles A. We* Putnam, 1928 64 

200. Lippman, Walter. A Preface to Morals. Macmillan, 1929 56 

aoi. Lipton, Sir Thomas. Liptori s Autobiography . Duffield, 1932.. .55 

202. Lisitzky, Gene. Thomas Jefferson. Viking, 1933 66 

203. London, Jack. The Call of the Wild. Grosset, 1903 74 

204. London, Jack. Cruise of the Snark. Donohue, 1908 98 

205. Lovelace, Delos W. Rockne of Notre Dame. Putnam, 1931 67 

206. Lovelace, Maude Hart. Petticoat Court. Day, 1930 78 



346 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

TABLE LXXXV Continued 

Predicted 

No. Book Index of 

Difficulty 

207. Lowman, Guy Sumner. Practical Football^ and How To Teach 

It. Barnes, 1927 95 

208. Lucas, William Palmer. The Health of the Runabout Child; the 
Journey from His Mother's Lap to the School Gate. Macmillan, 

1923 60 

209. Ludwig, EmiL July '14. Putnam, 1929 42 

210. MacGregor, Mary. The Story of France. Stokes, 1920 70 

211. Madsen, Alfred S., and Lukowitz, J. J. Problems in Furniture 
Design and Construction. Bruce, 1928 93 

212. Magoffin, R. V. D., and Davis, Emily. Magic Spades, the Ro- 
mance of Archaeology. Holt, 1929 58 

213. Major, Charles. When Knighthood Was In Flower. Grosset, 

1898 70 

214. Manning, Sybilla, and Donaldson, A. M. Fundamentals of 
Dress Construction. Macmillan, 1926 1.19 

215. Markey, Morris. This Country of Yours. Little, 1932 81 

216. Marshall, Henrietta Elizabeth. An Island Story. Stokes, 1920 1.07 

217. Martin, Harry Brownlow. Whafs Wrong with Your Game? 
Dodd, 1930 88 

218. Martin, Martha Evans. The Friendly Stars. Harper, 1907 71 

219. Martini, Herbert E. Color. Bridgman, 1930 99 

220. Masefield, John. Gallipoli. Macmillan, 1917 72 

221. Mason, Caroline Atwater. The Spell of Southern Shores; or y 
From Sea to Sea in Italy. Page, 1915 47 

222. Mason, Gregory. Columbus Came Late. Century, 1931 41 

223. Maternity Center Association of New York City. Maternity 
Handbook. Putnam, 1932 1.16 

224. Maurois, Andr6. Disraeli. Lane, 1927 31 

225. Maynard, Theodore. De Soto and the Conquistadores. Long- 
mans, 1930 62 

226. McBride, Robert Medill. Romantic Czechoslovakia. McBride, 

1930 03 

227. McKready, Kelvin. A Beginner's Star-Book. Putnam, 1923. . .42 

228. McMahon, John R. Wright Brothers. Little, 1930 48 

229. Meadowcroft, William H. The Boy's Life of Edison. Harper, 

1921 58 

230. Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. Modern Library, 1926 28 

231. Miller, Janet. Jungles Preferred. Houghton, 1931 71 

232. Mills, Dorothy. The Book of the Ancient Greeks. Putnam, 1925 .68 

233. Minnigerode, Meade. The Fabulous Forties. Putnam, 1924. . . .41 

234. Mitchell, Lucy Sprague. Horses^ Now and Long Ago. Harcourt, 

1926 i .08 

235. Mitchell, S, Weir. Hugh Wynne. Burt, 1897 78 



APPENDIXES 347 

TABLE LXXXV Continued 

Predicted 

No, Book Index of 

Difficulty 

236. Montgomery, L. M. Anne of Green Gables. Page, 1908 84 

237. Moore, Charles W. The Mental Side of Golf. Liveright, 1929. . ,70 

238. Morton, Henry C. V. The Call of England. McBride, 1933. . . .78 

239. Morton, Henry C. V* In Search of Scotland. Dodd, 1930 51 

240. Mowrer, Edgar Ansel. Germany Puts the Clock Back. Morrow, 

1933 14 

241. Muller, Charles G. How They Carried the Goods. Harcourt, 

I93 2 62 

242. Munroe, Kirk. The Flamingo Feather. Harper, 1923 48 

243. Nisenson, Samuel, and Parker, Alfred. Minute Biographies. 
Grosser,, 1931 64 

244. NordhoiF, Charles, and Hall, James N. Men against the Sea. 
Little, 1934 48 

245. O'Brien, John S. By Dog Sled for Byrd; 1,600 Miles across Ant- 
arctic Ice. Rockwell, 1931 75 

246. Okey, Thomas. The Art of Basket-Making. Pitman, 1912 68 

247. Overs treet, Harry Allen. About Ourselves. Norton, 1927 91 

248. Parker, Cornelia Stratton. German Summer. Liveright, 1932. . .55 

249. Parsons, Geoffrey. The Land of Fair Play. Scribner, 1919 1 .02 

250. Parsons, Geoffrey. The Stream of History. Scribner, 1928 68 

251. Partridge, Bellamy. Amundsen^ the Bf Undid Norseman. 
Stokes, 1929 77 

252. Patri, Angelo. School and Home. Appleton, 1925 i . 1 1 

253. Perkins, Lucy F. Aesop's Fables. Stokes, 1908 76 

254. Phelan, Vincent. The Care and Repair of the Home. Doubleday, 

1931 9 1 

255. Picken, Mary Brooks. How To Make Draperies (Singer Sewing 
Library, No. 4). Singer Sewing Machine Co., 1930 91 

256. Poe, Edgar Allen. The Gold Bug (adapted as The Gold Insect in 
basic English). Trubner, 1932 81 

257. Polk, Ralph W. The Practice of Printing. Manual Arts, 1926. . .96 

258. Powell, E. Alexander. Undiscovered Europe. Washburn, 1932. .15 

259. Pupin, Michael. From Immigrant to Inventor. Scribner, 1925. . .60 

260. Rawlings, Marjorie K. South Moon Under. Scribner, 1933. . . .85 

261. Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. Gros- 

set, 1928 80 

262. Repplier, Agnes. P2rt Marquette. Doubleday, 1929 68 

263. Richardson, William L., and Owen, Jesse M. Literature of the 
World. Ginn, 1922 64 

264. Rinehart, Mary Roberts. Nomad's Land. Doran, 1922 66 

265. Rinehart, Mary Roberts, Tenting To-Night, Doubleday, 1928 .89 

266. Robert, Henry M. Roterfs Rules of Order Revised. Scott, Fores- 
man, 1915 75 



348 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

TABLE LXXXV Continued 

Predicted 

No. Book Index of 

Difficulty 

267. Robinson, James Harvey. The Mind in the Making. Harper, 

I9 21 43 

268. Robinson, Will H. Under Turquoise Skies; Americas South- 
west from the Days of the Ancient Cliff-Dwellers to Modern Times. 
Macmillan, 1928 34 

269. Roche, Mazo de la. Jalna. Little, 1928 68 

270. Rockwell, Frederick Frye. Gardening under Glass. De la Mare, 

I9 28 44 

271. Rogers, Agnes, and Allen, F. L. The American Procession. Har- 

per, 1933 15 

272. Rolland, Romain. Jean-Christophe. Holt, 1910 23 

273. Rolvaag, O. E. Giants in the Earth. Harper, 1929 69 

274. Roosevelt, Franklin D. Looking Forward. Day, 1933 70 

275. Roosevelt, Theodore. Stories of the Great West. Century, 1909 .60 

276. Ross, Leland M., and Grobin, A. W. This Democratic Roosevelt; 

the Life Story of "F.D" Dutton, 1932 53 

277. Rush, Mary Wheeler. The Ignoramus Garden Book; a Practical 
Handbook for the Beginner. Sears, 1931 73 

278. Russell, Phillips. John Paul Jones. Brentano's, 1927 42 

279. Sabatini, Rafael. The Banner of the Bull. Grosset, 1927 61 

280. Sabatini, Rafael. Scaramouche. Grosset, 1921 82 

281. Sandburg, Carl. Abe Lincoln Grows Up. Harcourt, 1926 58 

282. Sandburg, Carl, and Angle, Paul M. Mary Lincoln. Harcourt, 

1932 _ s 2 

283. Sawyer, Robert V., and Perkins, Edwin. Water Gardens and 
Goldfish. De la Mare, 1928 60 

284. Seabrook, William B. Jungle Ways. Harcourt, 1931 59 

285. Sedgwick, Henry D wight. France; a Short History of Its Poli- 
tics^ Literature, and Art from Earliest Times to the Present. 
Little, 1929 33 

286. Seed, T. Rutherford. Basket Work; a Practical Handbook. Ox- 
ford University Press, 1927 i .00 

287. Shay, Frank. Here's Audacity! (American legendary heroes) 
Macaulay, 1930 86 

288. Sichel, Edith Helen. The Renaissance. (Home University of 
Modern Knowledge. No. 27.) Holt, 1914 32 

289. Singmaster 3 Elsie. The Book of the Colonies. Doubleday, 1929.. .71 

290. Singmaster^ Elsie, The Book of the United States. Doubleday, 

1926 69 

291. Siringo, Charles A. Riata and Spurs. Houghton, 1927 78 

292. Skinner, Otis. Footlights and Spotlights. Bobbs, 1924 55 

293. Slocum, Joshua. Sailing Alone around the World. Century, 

1900 58 



APPENDIXES 349 

TABLE LXXXV Continued 

Predicted 

No. Book Index of 

Difficulty 

294. Smith, Alfred E. Up to Now; an Autobiography. Viking, 1929 .. .63 

295. Smith, Andre". The Scenewright. Macmillan, 1927 53 

296. Snedeker, Caroline Dale. The Spartan. Doubleday, 1922 78 

297. Soule, George. The Useful Art of Economics. Macmillan, 1929 .60 

298. Steele, Fletcher* Design in the Little Garden. Atlantic Monthly 
Press, 1924 66 

299. Steffens, Lincoln. The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens. Har- 
court, 1931 63 

300. Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island. Scribner, 1921 64 

301. Stewart, Cora Wilson. Country Life Readers, Book I. Johnson, 

1915 1-84 

302. Stewart, Cora Wilson. Country Life Readers, Book II. John- 
son, 1916 i .33 

303. Stewart, Cora Wilson. Country Life Readers, Book III. John- 
son, 1917 1.04 

304. Stote, Dorothy. Making the Most of Your Looks. Brentano's, 

1926 89 

305. Stribling, T. S. Teef tallow. Doubleday, 1926 69 

306. Sublette, Clifford M. The Scarlet Cockerel. Little, 1929 43 

307. Suckow, Ruth. Bonney Family. Knopf, 1928 86 

308. Sullivan, Mark. Our Times; 1900-1925. Scribner, 1930 51 

309. Sullivan, Mark. Our Times; the Turn of the Century. Scribner, 

19*7 r 4 

310. Tappan, Eva March. When Knights Were Bold. Houghton, 

1911 66 

311. Tarkington, Booth. Penrod. Grosset, 1914 71 

312. Thorn, Douglas A. Everyday Problems of the Everyday Child. 
Appleton, 1929 36 

313. Thomas, Lowell. With Lawrence in Arabia. Garden City, 1924 .39 

314. Thomason, John W., Jr. Fix Bayonets! Scribner, 1926 59 

315. Tipton, Edna S. Table Decorations for All Occasions. Stokes, 

19*4 9 

316. Tracy, Louis. The Wings of the Morning. Grosset, 1903 54 

317. Trine, Ralph Waldo. In Tune with the Infinite. Bobbs, 1897 , . .86 

318. Tschiffely, A. F. Tschiffely's Ride; Ten Thousand Miles in the 
Saddle from Southern Cross to Pole Star. Simon, 1933 47 

319. Tunney, Gene. A Man Must Fight. Houghton, 1932 75 

320. Turgenev, Ivan S. Fathers and Sons. Dutton, 1922 43 

321. Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Harper, 1922. . .86 

322. Usher, Roland G. The Story of the Great War. Macmillan, 1919 .72 

323. Van Loon, Hendrik Willem. America. Boni, 1927 24 

324. Van Loon, Hendrik Willem. Ancient Man. Boni, 1920 .67 

325. Van Loon, Hendrik Willem, The Story of Mankind. Boni, 1921 .47 



350 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

TABLE LXXXV -Continued 

Predicted 

No. Book Index of 

Difficulty 

326. Van Loon, Hendrik Willem. Van Loon's Geography; The Story 

of the World We Live /. Simon, 1932 46 

327. Van Metre, T. W. Trains^ Tracks and Travel. Harcourt, 1931 i .08 

328. Villiers, Alan J. By Way of Cape Horn, Holt, 1930 73 

329. Wadhams, Caroline R. Simple Directions for the Chambermaid. 
Longmans, 1917 i , u 

330. Wain, Nora. The House of Exile. Little, 1933 57 

331. Walpole, Hugh. Fortitude. Doubleday, 1913 67 

332. Washington, Booker T. Up from Slavery. Doubleday, 1920, . . .72 
333- Welzl, Jan. Thirty Years in the Golden North. Macmillan, 1932 .94 

334. West, Michael. Robinson Crusoe New Method Readers, Sup- 
plementary Reader III. Longmans, 1931 2 . 06 

335. Weyman, Stanley J. Under the Red Robe. Grosset, 1923 91 

336. Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome. Scribner, 1911 68 

337. White, Stewart Edward. Daniel Boone> Wilderness Scout. Al- 

lyn & Bacon, 1926 76 

338. White, William C. These Russians. Scribner, 1931 65 

339- Wilder, Thornton. The Woman of Andros. Boni, 1930 86 

340. Williams, Albert Rhys. The Russian Land. New Republic, 

1927 51 

341. Willson, Beckles. Canada (Romance of Empire Series). Nelson, 

1933 47 

342. Winkler, John K. John D.; a Portrait in Oils. Blue Ribbon, 

1929 63 

343. Winn, Mary Day. The Macadam Trail; Ten Thousand Miles by 
Motor Coach. Knopf, 1931 16 

344. Wister, Owen. The Seven Ages of Washington. Macmillan, 1917 .08 

345. Woodburn, James A., and Moran, Thomas F. The Makers of 
America. Longmans, 1922 83 

346. Wooley, C. Leonard. Ur of the Chaldees. Scribner, 1930 28 

347. Wright, Eugene. The Great Horn Spoon. Bobbs, 1928 53 

348. Wright, Harold Bell. The Winning of Barbara Worth. Burt, 

1911 83 

349. Wyss, David. Swiss Family Robinson. Harper, 1909 34 

350. Wyss, David. Swiss Family Robinson; in Words of One Syl- 
lable. AltemuSj 1900 70 



APPENDIX G 

Table LXXXVI lists the reading textbooks for Grades II-IX used in inter- 
preting areas of difficulty represented by adult books in terms of elementary 
grade levels for which they are structurally appropriate. How the books were 
used for this purpose is explained in chapter vi. 

TABLE LXXXVI 

TEXTBOOKS INT READING USED IN THE INTERPRETATION OF AREAS OF 
DIFFICULTY REPRESENTED BY 350 ADULT BOOKS 

Bolenius, Emma Miller. Literature in the Junior High School, Books I, II, and 

III. Houghton, 1926-28. 
Bryce, Catharine T.; Hardy, Rose Lees; and Turpin, Edna. Newson Readers, 

Books II, III, IV, V, and VI. Newson, 1927-29. 
Coleman, Bessie; Uhl, Willis; and Hosic, James. The Pathway to Reading, 

Books II, III, IV, V, and VI. Silver, Burdett, 1925-26. 
ELSON, William H.; Gray, William S.; and Keck, Christine M. Ehon Basic 

Readers, Books II, III, IV, V, VI. Scott, Foresman, 1931. 
Engleman, J. O., and McTurnan, Lawrence. Guide Books to Literature, Books 

I, II, and III. Laidlaw, 1925-26. 

Freeman, Frank N.; Storm, Grace E.; Johnson, Eleanor M.; and French, 

W. C. Child Story Readers, Books II, III, IV, V, and VI. Lyons & Carna- 

han, 192729. 
Gates, Arthur L; Huber, Miriam Blanton; and Ayer, Jean Y. The Work-Play 

Books, Books II, III, IV, V, and VI. Macmillan, 1930-32. 
Greenlaw, Edwin; Miles, Dudley; Stratton, Clarence; and Keck, Christine M. 

Literature and Life, Books I, II, and III. Scott, Foresman, 1929-33. 
Haggerty, Melvin E., and Smith, Dora V. Reading and Literature^ Books I, 

II, and III. World Book Co., 1927-28. 

Hardy, Marjorie. New Stories, Book II; Best Stories, Book III. Wheeler, 

1926-27. 
Hill, Howard C.; Lyman, Rollo L.; and Moore, Nelle E. Reading and Living, 

Books I, II, and III. Scribner, 1930. 
Ringer; Edith Hope; Sewell, J. W.; Harris, Albert Mason; Stockton, Helen 

M.; and Downie, Lou Chase. Citizenship Readers, Books II, III, IV, V, 

VI. Lippincott, 1930. 
Lewis, Wm. D.; Rowland, A. L.; Marshall and Gehres. New Silent Readers, 

Books II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, and VIIL Winston, 1930-31. 
Lyman, Rollo, and Hill, Howard C. Literature and Living, Books I and II. 

Scribner, 1925. 
Manly, J. M.; Rickert, Edith; and Leubric, Nina. Good Reading, Books II, 

III, IV, V, VI. Scribner, 1926-28. 



352 WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 

TABLE LXXXVICe>wft*/ 

Patterson, Samuel White. Bobls-Merrill Literature Series, Books I, II, and 

III. Bobbs, 1928. 

Pennell, Mary, and Cusack, Alice. The Children's Own Readers, Books II, III, 

IV, V, and VI. Ginn, 1929. 

Ross, J. M., and Schweikert, H. C. Adventures in Literature^ Books VII, 

VIII, and IX. Harcourt, 1927-28. 
Suzzallo, H.; Freeland, G.; McLaughlin, K. L.; and Skinner, A. Fact and 

Story Readers, Books II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII. American Book, 



Theisen, Wm. W., and Leonard, S. A. Real Life Stories, Books VII and VIII. 
Macmillan, 1929. 



INDEX 



INDEX 



Adjacent areas of difficulty, significance 
of, 208 

Adult books studied, 195 

Adult readers, percentage of, reading 
books in different areas of difficulty, 
220 

Adult reading, grade levels of, 76, 78 

Adult reading ability: based on informa- 
tion concerning last year in school, 
239; determined by expressed prefer- 
ence for materials, 243 ; determined by 
knowledge of materials previously 
read, 238; use of objective tests in de- 
termining, 236 

Adult reading materials: differences in, 
with respect to elements of difficulty, 
143; difficulty of, 194; diversity of 
vocabulary in, 153; elements influ- 
encing difficulty of, 94; length of sen- 
tences in, 155; monosyllables in, 151; 
samples of, arranged in order of diffi- 
culty, 244, 245, 247, 248; simplicity 
of sentence structure in, 1 56 

Adult reading test, description of, 59, 60 

American Association for Adult Educa- 
tion, v, vii 

American Library Association, v, vii 

An average reading score used in pre- 
dicting difficulties, 196 

Areas of difficulty: books characterizing, 
209; meaning of, in terms of grade- 
levels of reading ability, 213 

Areas of difficulty defined, 204 

Average length of sentences in books, 1 88; 
in general magazines, 168; in news- 
papers, 1 80 

Average reading scores, predicted for 
eighty-one textbooks in reading, ai6 

Asides, appositives, and parenthetical ex- 
pressions as indicators of difficulty, 106 

Ayer, Adelaide M., 107 

Ayer, N. W., and Sons, 144 

Better reading material, need for simple 

presentation of, 264 
Boas, Ralph Philip, in 



Books: classified according to simplicity 
of sentence form, r88; classified ac- 
cording to vocabulary diversity, 186; 
differences in length of word, 184; 
relative difficulty according to aver- 
age length of sentences, 188 

Books analyzed, 147, 148, 149 

Books, difficulty of composite ranking, 
191 

Burch, Mary Crowell, -234 

Carnegie Corporation of New York, vii 

Chancellor, John, vii, 24, 34, 38, 233, 249 

Cheney, O. H., 229, 262 

Classifying reading material, by predicted 
index of difficulty, 253 

Cleary, Margaret D. 3 72 

Committee on the Reading Interests and 
Habits of Adults, v 

Comprehension of general reading ma- 
terial, how to measure, 58 

Conrad, L. R., 24 

Content, general aspects of, the relative 
importance of, 35 

Content as influencing readability, 33 

Content and structural words as indica- 
tors of difficulty, 104 

Cornell, Ethel, 276 

Cornell Reading Vocabulary for Foreign- 
born Adults, 276 

Criterion of difficulty, obtaining, 96 

Dale, Edgar, vii, 100, 101, 102, 236, 275 

DeVoss, J. C., 257 

Dickerson, L. L., 249 

Different words, as indicators of difficulty, 
102 

Difficulty: areas of defined, 204* ele- 
ments in test paragraphs influenc- 
ing, 96; predicted in terms of an aver- 
age reading score, 196; range of, for 
350 books, 200 

Difficulty of adult reading materials, ele- 
ments influencing, 94 

Difficulty of newspapers, with respect to 
elements of difficulty, 178 



355 



356 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



Difficulty of reading materials,, as related 

to structural elements, 7 
Direct and indirect discourse as indicators 

of difficulty, 1 1 1 
Diversity of vocabulary in adult reading 

materials, 153 
Dolch, Edward William, 102, 105 

Easy and hard words, as indicators of 
difficulty, 100 

Elements in general reading of use in esti- 
mating difficulty, 126 

Elements in test paragraphs that influence 
difficulty, 96 

Elements of difficulty: correlation with 
criterion of difficulty, 114; in differ- 
ent classes of newspapers, 179; selec- 
tion of for experimentation, 113; selec- 
tion of most useful for prediction, 130; 
significance of for all readers, 121; sig- 
nificance of for "best" readers, 122; 
significance of for "poorest" readers, 

123 
Elements of difficulty in general reading 

material, for different classes of read- 
ers, 117 
Elements, use of in estimating difficulty, 

131 
Expressional elements, list of, influencing 

difficulty, 97 

Factors influencing readability: a pos- 
sible list of, 25; four major categories 
of, 26; judgment concerning influ- 
ence of, 30; nature of replies concern- 
ing, 29; technique of obtaining opin- 
ion relative to, 28 

Faucett, Lawrence, 277 

Faucett's Minimum Vocabulary for Read- 
ing and Understanding, 277 

Federal Emergency Relief Commission, 
vii 

Felsenthal, Emma, 23 

Figures of speech as indicators of diffi- 
culty, no 

Findings, treatment of, 151 

Findings of report, applicability of, 9 

Findings of study, compared with those 
of other studies, 124 

Flexner, Jennie M., vii 

Format; factors of in a readable book, 



40; general aspects of, the relative 
importance of, 42 
Franz, S. L, 41 

Gates, Arthur I., 276 

Gates's Reading Vocabulary for Primary 
Grades, 276 

General magazines, classified by: aver- 
age length of sentences, 168; percent- 
age of different words, 166; percentage 
of monosyllables, 159; percentage of 
simple sentences, 171 

General magazines, difficulty of, com- 
posite ranking, 175, 176 

General reading material: how to measure 
comprehension of, 58; how well adults 
read, 67 

Grade levels of adult reading, 76 

Gray, William S., 95, 240, 249, 274 

Gray, Wil Lou, 240, 249 

Griffing, H., 4 i 

Groups tested, 61, 74 

Harris, Helen C., 107 

Hoit, Doris, vii, 196 

Holzinger, Karl J., 83, 126, 136, 137, 163, 

205, 206 

How to prepare readable materials, 261 
How to select readable materials, 224 
How well adults read, 57 

Image-bearing and non-image-bearing 
words, as indicators of difficulty, 104 

Inter-correlations of elements of difficulty, 
128, 129 

International Kindergarten Union: Child 
Study Committee of, 101 ; Word List 
of, 101 

Investigation of readability, steps of pro- 
cedure in, 10 

Johnson, George R., 103, 255 

Kelley, Truman L., 137 
Kelly, F.J., 257 

L,,H.W.,i5o 

LaBrant, Lou L., 1 50 

Larsen, Laura M., 235 

Length and kind of sentences, as indi- 
cators of difficulty, 107 

Length of selection, as indicator of diffi- 
culty, no 



INDEX 



357 



Length of sentences, in adult reading ma- 
terials, 155 

Lewerenz, Alfred S., 105, 254, 270 

Library readers, methods of obtaining 
reactions from, 45 

Limitations of the study, 94, 95 

Lively, Bertha A,, 102 

Lubbock, Percy, in 

Magazines analyzed, 144, 145, 146 
Major findings of study, applications of, 

17 

Maki, Itsu, 277 
Malinowski, Bronislaw, no 
Mason, Charles W., 231 
McAdams, Mary Ann, 234 
McCluskey, Howard Y., 103 
Miers, Sir Henry A., 237 
Monosyllables in adult reading materials, 

151 

Monroe, Ruth, 95, 274 
Monroe, W. S., 257 

Negro adults tested, reading achievement 
of, 91 

Newspapers: differences in difficulty in 
departments of, 183; occurrence of 
significant elements of difficulty in, 
179; variations with respect to ele- 
ments of difficulty, 178 

Newspapers analyzed, 146, 147, 148 

Ogden, C. K., 38, 106, no, 278, 279 

Ogden's Basic English Vocabulary, 278 

Ojemann, R. H., 102, 240 

Organization, factors of, influencing read- 
ability, 43 

Organization, general aspects of, relative 
importance of, 45 

Orndorff, Bernice, 108 

Parts of speech, as indicators of difficulty, 
103 

Personal pronouns, as indicators of diffi- 
culty, 103 

Peterson, Mildred O., 228 

Phrases, as indicators of difficulty, 109 

Potential indicators of difficulty, in adult 
reading material, 98 

Predication, as an indicator of difficulty, 
109 

Predicted scores, verification of, 139 



Predicting difficulty, in terms of an aver- 
age reading score, 134 

Prediction of difficulty, by a smaller num- 
ber of elements, 137; reliability of, 136 

Preparing readable books, points to be 
considered in, 269 

Preparing readable materials, contribu- 
tions of scientific studies to, 272 

Pressey, L. C., 255 

Pressey, S. L., 102 

Problems for further study, suggestions 
of, 19 

Properties of paragraphs, that are po- 
tential indicators of difficulty, 99 

Properties of sentences, that are poten- 
tial indicators of difficulty, 99 

Properties of words, that are potential 
indicators of difficulty, 98 

Ranking reading materials for relative 
difficulty, 254 

Readable book: approach to definition of, 
5; characteristics as described in cur- 
rent literature, 22; dictionary defini- 
tion of, 22; factors of format in, 40 

Readable books: many kinds of, 261; 
number available for adults of limited 
ability, 262; selection of, approach to 
study of, 233 

Readable materials: how to prepare, 261; 
interest in at present, I 

Readable writing, problems of, 283 

Readable writing for adults, tentative 
standards for, 288 

Readability: factors of content that in- 
fluence, 33; factors of organization in- 
fluencing, 43; factors of style con- 
tributing to, 36; possible factors in- 
fluencing, 25; relation of vocabulary 
to, 275 ; summary of inquiry relative 

to, 54 

Readers, kinds reporting, 47 
Readers* reactions, an analysis of, 48 
Reading ability, nature of measure of, 6 
Reading ability of adults, summary of 

testing program, 92 

Reading achievement: comparison on two 
tests of, 82; of negro adults, 91; of 
village groups, 86; relation to amount 
of educational training, 84 
Reading Habits Committee, of the Amer- 
ican Association of Adult Education 



358 



WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE 



and of the American Library Associa- 
tion, vii 

Reading interests and habits of adults, 
what has been discovered about, 274 

Reading materials for adults, how to se- 
lect, 224 

Reading materials, selection of, aspects 
to be considered in, 230 

Reading passages, differences in, with one 
element held constant, 281, 282 

Rejall, Alfred E., 277 

Rejall Word List for Voters in Citizen- 
ship, 277 

Relative difficulty: defining with respect 
to specific elements in general maga- 
zines, 157; procedure in estimating, 
150 

Report, what it is about, i 

Richards, I. A., 106, no 

Robinson, James Harvey, 22 

Sampling of books, adequacy of, 140 

Scaling materials for difficulty, 256 

Scudder, Harold H., 148 

Selecting reading materials of appropriate 
difficulty, 250 

Selecting right books for reader, a typical 
situation, 234 

Selection of adult reading materials, im- 
portance of, 224 

Simplicity of sentence form in books, 188; 
in general magazines, 171; in news- 
papers, 1 8 1 

Simplicity of structure, in adult reading 
materials, 156 

Snedden, David, 227 

Stote, Dorothy, 199 

Structural elements, reasons for investi- 
gation of, 7 

Style, general aspects of, the relative im- 
portance of, 38 

Stylistic devices, as indicators of diffi- 
culty, 112. 

Sub-committee on readable books, v, 23 

Subordinate clauses, as indicators of diffi- 
culty, 109 

Swenson, Elaine, 276^278 



Swenson's Minimum Vocabulary for 
Foreigners, 276 

Swineford, Frances, vii 

Syllabic length of word, as indicator of 
difficulty, 103 

Syllabic word-length, differences in maga- 
zines of different content, 163; differ- 
ences among departments of news- 
papers, 183 

Technique of paragraph development, as 
indicator of difficulty, 112 

Testing adult reading ability, securing 
groups for, 60 

Thompson, Ruth Culver, 108 

Thorndike, Edward L., 101, 108, 275 

Thorndike Word List, 275 

Thorndike's Teachers Word Book, 101 

Til ton, J. Warren, 240, 249 

Tyler, Ralph W., vii, 35, ico, 236, 274 

Types of narration, as indicators of diffi- 
culty, in 

Tyson, Levering, 228 

Vernon, Madeline D., 41 

Village group tested, achievement of, 86 

Vocabulary diversity of books, 186; of 

general magazines, 166; of newspapers, 

179 
Vogel, Mabel, 102 

Waples, Douglas, vii, 24, 35, 274, 275 

Washburne, Carleton, 102, 236 

West, Michael, vii, 244, 266, 278, 281 

Wiggins, G. T., 76 

Wilson, Louis R., vii 

Winslow, Amy, 231 

Witty, Paul A., 150 

Words associated with adult living, as 
indicators of difficulty, 105 

Words beginning with w, h y b, i, or e, as 
indicators of difficulty, 104 

Words expressing abstractions, as indi- 
cators of difficulty, 105 

Words not known to 90 per cent of sixth- 
grade pupils, 101 



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